The ORS/Zinc Co-Pack Alliance: what is it and why is it important?
Last month, in collaboration with the Child Health Task Force, the ORS/Zinc Co-pack Alliance (ORSZCA) and its co-chairs, Dr Moseda Chowdhury (BRAC, Bangladesh) and Samy Ahmar (Save the Children, UK) made its official debut. More than 30 countries attended the virtual launch event, which featured speakers and a panel of long-time public health experts from Bangladesh, India, the UK and US. The recording of the event is now available and speaker clips are forthcoming and will be available here.
The mission of ORSZCA is to accelerate the adoption of the 2019 WHO recommendation that ORS and Zinc should be co-packaged for the treatment of diarrhoea. ORSZCA will do this by raising awareness of the new recommendation and identifying and removing barriers to implementation.
Why do we need an alliance for co-packaged ORS and Zinc?
History tells us that without strong advocacy for policy implementation, uptake can be slow.
It was back in 2004 that WHO and UNICEF first recommended that both ORS and Zinc be given to children with diarrhoea. Yet today, 18 years on, it is estimated that only 15% of diarrhoea cases receive both ORS and Zinc. At this rate, it would take 80 years for every child who needs ORS and Zinc to receive this simple co-therapy, resulting in millions of avoidable child deaths.
ORSZCA will be the concerted, collective effort to bring together all the key players nationally and globally around a mission to save hundreds of thousands of children’s lives by making co-packaged ORS and Zinc the ‘go-to’ treatment for diarrhoea.
Attention and investment in diarrhoea treatment remain incommensurate with the need:
- Diarrhoea remains the second biggest infectious killer of under 5 children, killing around half a million children a year.
- Coverage rates of the two treatment elements, ORS and Zinc, remain unacceptably low at 41% and 15% respectively.
Business as usual will not get close to delivering the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea 2025 target of no more than 1 diarrhoea death per 1,000 live births.
The 2019 WHO ORS/Zinc co-packaging recommendation is an opportunity to re-energise support for this cornerstone diarrhoeal disease treatment and trigger the much-needed coverage improvements.
ORS has saved millions of lives over the years. Co-packaging of ORS and Zinc is the next simple action we can all support to save millions more.
Please join this collective effort. Join ORSZCA and spread the word.
Simon Berry, ORSZCA Secretariat