Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS)

Oct 20, 2020


Oral rehydration therapy (ORT) treats dehydration caused by severe diarrhea through the replacement of lost fluids.

Oral rehydration solution (ORS) is one liter of water, six teaspoons of sugar, and a half teaspoon of salt. This simple mixture has saved millions of lives and costs just pennies. 


The Lancet called ORS one of the greatest medical achievements of the twentieth century


ORS is the cornerstone of diarrhea treatment in low-resource settings. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF recommend ORS and zinc as essential to clinical treatment of acute diarrhea.

Easy to prepare and administer in the home, ORS empowers parents with the first line of treatment for children suffering from diarrhea. In a review of 157 studies, ORS reduced deaths from diarrhea by 69%.


ORS and zinc could prevent more than half of diarrhea deaths
See more data points in DefeatDD’s ORS and zinc message map.


Sadly, access to ORS remains low

With a few exceptions, most countries have seen only incremental progress over the years. Globally, less than half of children have access to ORS, and access to the recommended treatment of ORS and zinc is far lower, at a mere 15%.

Interactive maps of subnational ORS access conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) tell an important story of disparity: access is often lowest where the burden is highest.

A new policy to reach more children

In July 2019, the World Health Organization added co-packaged ORS and zinc to its essential medicines list for children (EMLc), harmonizing with diarrhea treatment best practices and creating an enabling environment for greater access, uptake, and affordability of both zinc and ORS. Learn more.

At ORT corners in rural clinics in Africa and Asia, nurses combine treatment with education, giving mothers immediate access to ORS and clean water while teaching them about hygiene, breastfeeding, and nutrition. View photos of ORT corners in Kenya and Zambia to see the vital role they play in a comprehensive strategy to defeat diarrhea.



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