PATH is working to reestablish oral rehydration therapy (ORT) corners in Kenya, where mothers can easily access lifesaving rehydration for sick children.
While leading a group of visitors through a rural hospital in Kenya’s Western Province, Alfred Ochola gently examined a tiny, dehydrated child. If this child had received oral rehydration solution (ORS) maybe 4 or 5 hours before, he explained, she could have been treated as an outpatient. Lack of access to this simple and inexpensive solution is a burden that is felt by health care workers throughout the developing world. In one ward of the hospital in Bungoma District, one nurse manages 33 children, and sees about 10 cases of diarrhea per day.
“It hurts me,” says Alfred, the primary health care coordinator for PATH’s Kenya country program, “because diarrhea is controllable. It is preventable.”
He could see that many medical officers and hospital administrators had developed a perception that diarrhea was no longer ‘important’ so Alfred began by introducing the project to his medical superintendant.
As a result, the hospital superintendant allocated space within the hospital for the reestablishment of an Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) corner and equipment including a water heater for water purification, measuring jars, buckets with covers, plastic cups, a 250 liter water storage tank, a weighing machine, a thermometer, and supplies of ORS and zinc. Funds from PATH provide a simple set of supplies: comfortable benches for mothers to use as they administer ORS, plastic containers, a clock, hot plates to boil water and cook porridge.
Alfred’s revitalization of ORT Corners in Kenya has already began to change a bleak picture. When an ORT Corner is established, children ultimately admitted to the hospital with severe dehydration could easily drop to as few as 2 cases per day. It will revolutionize the way health care workers and caregivers approach the treatment of diarrhea.
In just a few months, Alfred has revitalized 22 ORT Corners and trained over 200 health care workers on protocol for administering new, low-osmolarity ORS and zinc treatment. Alfred is also building relationships with the Ministry of Health to ensure a constant supply of zinc tablets and ORS packets.
The results are already outstanding: the number of children who suffer long hospital stays and even death from diarrhea are declining, health care workers are able to treat other urgent cases, and mothers are able to more actively participate in the treatment of their children.