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For Fatuma and her neighbours, having zinc and oral rehydration salts (ORS) in the community could be life-saving.

Diarrhoeal disease is one of the greatest killers of children in the Ethiopia. According to UNICEF, approximately 30,000 children in Ethiopia die each year from a diarrhoeal disease – something that is easy to treat.

For those children who do survive, diarrhoea holds them back from play and school, and continues to weaken their bodies. Caregivers like Fatuma may lose wages if they can’t work while they’re caring for a sick child.

But things are changing for Fatuma and millions of caregivers and their children who are benefiting from the Zinc Alliance for Child Health (ZACH) project in Ethiopia.

Launched in May 2013, ZACH is a partnership between MI, the Government of Canada, the Government of Ethiopia and Teck that aims to save children’s lives through the use of zinc and ORS to treat deadly diarrhoea.

This easy treatment has been introduced at health facilities across the country. The ZACH projects collaborates with additional partners to ensure zinc and ORS is available wherever parents get healthcare advice, including local pharmacies.

The ZACH project also focuses on letting parents know about this treatment for diarrhoea through extensive social marketing campaigns.

Fatuma’s story

Fatuma Abdo and her daughter live in Bedulalle, rural Kebellem in the Amibara District, Afar region of Ethiopia. There is only one health post serving the community.

Fatuma has come to the health post with her daughter for a follow-up visit after being treated with zinc and ORS for diarrhoea.

“My child had diarrhoea since last week and she was treated in this health post,” said Fatuma.  “She had watery stool, was unable to sleep, had no appetite and was irritable and unhappy. I went to the health post and the provider helped my child a lot. Now she improved, thanks to Allah. Since using the ORS and zinc her diarrhoea has stopped and she has got her appetite back.”

Fatuma told us about the kit components. She easily understood how to use each zinc and ORS treatment as it had been explained by the health extension worker. Fatuma said her daughter had completed the whole course of zinc. The diarrhoea had stopped, and mother and child are very happy. She told us that she used to take her child to traditional a healer for similar scenarios.

“The health extension workers and nurses usually educate us and we witness the benefit of ORS and zinc,” Fatuma said. “So, I will always bring my child when she has diarrhoea.”

Sr. Yiftu Sira’s story

Sr. Yiftu Sira is a clinical nurse in Bedulale Kebelle health post, who is working for the district health office, Amibara District, Afar. With training on Integrated Community Case Management (ICCM) strategy, she oversees the local health extension workers activities – including treating diarrhoea cases with zinc and ORS.

Yiftu Sira is just one of the everyday heroes around the district working to help children in their communities survive and thrive, with close support and help from the health office and implementing partners like AMREF, which is working to implement ICCM programming.

“The ICCM training has helped me to treat diarrhoeal cases simply. It built my capacity and helped me to save children’s lives,” said Yiftu Sira. “Saving lives is valuable – it is the ultimate of my achievement.”

“Lack of ICCM training and a supply to this simple and inexpensive kit is a burden that is felt by us. It hurts me because diarrhoea is controllable. It is preventable and easily manageable,” Yiftu Sira said. “We used antibiotics like Cotrimoxazole and ORS only to treat cases, but today we simply use zinc and ORS. The community perceives that they consider tablets as a treatment; therefore, the introduction of zinc creates an opportunity for treatment seeking by the caregivers.”

“We are also able to build a trust with the community, since taking zinc & ORS has shown its effectiveness,” said Yiftu Sira. “I am very happy because this treatment is saving a lots of children’s lives. We are now seeing more cases with diarrhoea and the caregivers are happy that this treatment has come to this health post.”