Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Zinc and low osmolarity oral rehydration salts for diarrhoea: a renewed call to action

Christa L Fischer Walker, Olivier Fontaine, Mark W Young & Robert E Black

In 2004, WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a joint statement recommending a new lower osmolarity oral rehydration salts (ORS) formulation and zinc supplementation for diarrhoea management. More than 5 years later, diarrhoea remains the second leading cause of death and few children in developing countries are receiving these life-saving interventions. Many countries are stalled in the technicalities of adapting national policy, while others struggle to find the funds for start-up activities. For nearly all countries, zinc supplements for children are not available locally; thus, zinc procurement continues to be a major obstacle. Global resources have not been sufficient to bring diarrhoea management to the forefront; thus, the introduction of these new recommendations has remained slow. Revitalizing diarrhoea management must become an international priority if we are going to reduce the burden of diarrhoea deaths and overall child mortality around the world.

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