Improved treatment of diarrhoea using zinc and ORSchallenges-chat

Some 800,000 children under 5 die from diarrhoeal disease every year, making it one of the largest killers of children. Diarrhoea can last several days, and can leave the body without the water and salts that are necessary for survival. Most people diarrhoea are caused by severe dehydration and fluid loss. Children who are malnourished or have impaired immunity are most at risk of life-threatening diarrhoea. 

© UNICEF/NYHQ1997-1146/Pirozzi;


Start Date: 2012-06


Focus Areas: , ,

Region: All

Country: All

Keywords: diarrhoea, ORS, Zinc, oral...


Key facts

  • Diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old. It is both preventable and treatable.
  • Globally, there are about two billion cases of diarrhoeal disease every year
  • Diarrhoeal disease kills 800,000 children under 5 every year. 
  • Of which 80% of deaths occur in Africa and South Asia.
  • Just 39% children with diarrhoea receive ORS.
  • Globally, there are about two billion cases of diarrhoeal disease every year.
  • Diarrhoea is a leading cause of malnutrition in children under five years old.
(Information and data sources can be read under Resources tab within this project) 


UNICEF procures dispersible zinc tablets and dissolvable oral rehydration salts (ORS) for treatment of diarrhoea. ORS contain salts and sugar which help the child to absorb water to replace that is lost during diarrheal episodes. As well as ORS, a 10-14 day course of zinc, reduces the duration of the episode as well as its incidence and severity of diarrhoea in the subsequent months.

Current solution

Currently, ORS is procured in different sized plain and orange flavoured sachets which is mixed with water to make 1L or 500 ml of solution. Instructions are printed on each sachet in English, French and Spanish.

Zinc is procured in blister packs of 10 dispersible tablets. Instructions for use are not printed on the blister pack, although one instruction leaflet is included in a supplied box of 100 blister packs.

Many projects and initiatives are taking place in the area of diarrhoea treatment, with successes and weaknesses.

Project scope and focus

This project investigates feedback from the field suggesting:

  • Caregivers do not complete the full 10-day programme of zinc in combination with 2-day programme of ORS.
  • Caregivers are confused about the treatment guideline.

This project is an investigation into how bundling of zinc and ORS can reduce the number of deaths from diarrhoeal disease through improved use of oral rehydration therapy.

Meet The Team

  • Jonathan Howard-Brand
    Supply Division
    Supply Specialist (Innovation)


This project has no partner organizations yet.

Project Updates

Project Updates

The co-packaged product with the depictive leaflet and instructions has been developed through supplier coordination. The new product is already available for purchase. It will enter the UNICEF tender process in the third quarter.

Updated - August 2013.

1 year 3 weeks ago by hschafer

Sharing your results and conclusions

If you are working on a project in this area, please get in touch and share your findings, conclusions and recommendations. The team is interested in hearing more about your initiative for zinc and ORS use


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