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N’Goné Sine is sitting with her neighbours in the village of N’Gomène Keur Atou in the Senegalese district of Thiès.

She’s trying to get some sewing finished but her work is constantly interrupted. Within the span of 20 minutes, three women come to see her with their sick children. All of these children are suffering from diarrhoea.

At a community meeting in 2012 presided over by the village chief, 20-year-old N’Goné was chosen by her neighbours to train to be the village’s “DS-DOM”.

DS-DOMs are local men and women trained by the Ministry of Health to treat malaria in their communities. They are put in place in villages that are as least five kilometres from the nearest health hut. They are seen as major contributors to the reduction in malarial deaths in Senegal over the past few years.

Through the Zinc Alliance for Child Health (ZACH) project in Senegal, the DS-DOMs in Thiès are now being trained to treat diarrhoea in children as well, providing faster and easier treatment closer to where they live. It’s a pilot project that, if successful, will be scaled up across the country. And judging by this one 20-minute span, it’s a big success.

When children are treated for diarrhoea earlier and more effectively, we can help to prevent some of the 6,000 child deaths from diarrhoea in Senegal each year. DS-DOMs are also being trained in some areas to treat another major child killer, pneumonia.

N’Goné’s first patient on this busy morning is six-month-old Mouhamed Toué. His mum, Sohkna, is worried because he keeps getting sick.

On the advice of her family members, Sohkna had been treating her son’s diarrhoea with monkey-bread fruit juice. He would recover for a few days or weeks but the diarrhoea keeps coming back. Her neighbour urged her to see N’Goné instead, who immediately advises treating the diarrhoea with zinc and oral rehydration salts (ORS).

Using zinc, along with ORS, to treat diarrhoea not only helps children recover from diarrhoea faster, it also helps to stop the diarrhoea from coming back so often.

One treatment of 10 of zinc tablets and two packets of ORS costs less than 50 cents. For this project, and in keeping with the Senegalese policy that all treatments received through the DS-DOMs are free, the zinc is given to Sohkna at no cost.

Happy that she has a new way of treating Mouhamed, Sohkna sets off home. N’Goné will go to visit her in the coming days to check on them both. She also asks Sohkna to let other friends and neighbours know that better treatment for diarrhoea is available.

This DS-DOM pilot project is just one part of the larger ZACH project in Senegal, which is accelerating the use and awareness of this effective zinc treatment.

A partnership between the Micronutrient Initiative, Teck and the Government of Canada, the Senegalese ZACH project was launched in May 2012 with the Government of Senegal and is now active in 58 out of 76 health districts, at 4,295 public health delivery points.