Zinc tablets for the treatment of childhood diarrhoea were introduced in Ghana in 2012 by the Ghana Health Service with technical support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
In combination with Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS), zinc provides a highly effective treatment for diarrhoea, the third largest killer of children under five in Ghana.
Dr. Wiafi, Municipal Health Director of Ledzekuku Krowor Municipality in Teshie stated that there were no infant mortalities under the age of five years due to diarrhoea in the municipality in 2012. “This drastic decrease in mortality can be partly attributed to the increased use of ORS+ Zinc tablets as the standard protocol to treat childhood diarrhoea”.
Dr. Appiah-Denkyira, Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has now made it standard protocol for the treatment of childhood diarrhoea nationwide”. This is in line with the World Health Organisation recommendation.
The ORS + Zinc treatment has proven to be very popular among Ghanaian families. Mr. Ian Tweedie, Chief of Party of the USAID Behaviour Change Support (BCS) Project stated that “Data shows since its introduction into the market in 2012, over ten million zinc tablets were distributed. Therefore roughly 1,000,000 children had quick and effective treatment of their diarrhoea. If they completed the full 10-day course, these children will be provided additional protection from future cases of diarrhoea for up to 3 months.”
The combination treatment of oral rehydration salts (ORS) and Zinc tablets is available over the counter at pharmacies, in chemical shops, and at health facilities. While ORS acts to replenish fluids that were lost during episodes of diarrhoea, zinc tablets reduce the severity of each diarrhoea episode and stops it faster. If the full ten-day course is taken, zinc tablets will provide three months of protection against future episodes.
In Ghana, children suffer from on average three episodes of diarrhoea a year. Although these episodes can be deadly, the vast majority of cases of childhood diarrhoea can be fully treated with ORS and Zinc tablets. No other medication is needed. However, if there is blood in the stool, vomits persistently, gets sicker or does not get better after three days, take the child to a health facility for further diagnosis and treatment.
The USAID Behaviour Change support (BCS) and USAID Strengthening Health Outcomes through the Private Sector (SHOPS) projects, are working in partnership with the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to dramatically increase the supply and promotion of Zinc tablets in the nations; and train doctors, nurses, chemical sellers, and pharmaceutical manufacturers across the nation to ensure that caregivers know how to properly administer the treatment.
As Ghana begins to move closer to the rainy season, occurrences of diarrhoea also increase. The Director General of the GHS advises that “prevention is better than cure”. Therefore, frequent hand washing with soap and water is one important step that can be taken to prevent diarrhoea, and proper waste disposal and observance of food hygiene should be intensified. Also, children should be vaccinated with the new rotovirus vaccine that was introduced to Ghana last year, which also helps prevent diarrhoea among children.
Source: Ghana Health Service/BCS/SHOPS
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