SWEDISH SUSTAINABILITY FOUNDATION

Every day of the year, 10.000 children
die because of dehydration

In its first years of life, every child in the tropics suffers from several episodes of diarrhoea each year. More than 5 million die and many more are disabled for life. Diarrhoeal diseases themselves are seldom mortal. It is the loss of water, in medical terms dehydration, which kills the child.

Among small children, dehydration is very rapid. If the infected child is also undernourished, it may die within a few days.

There is a cure

There is a simple cure for dehydration. A little bag, containing a blend of salts and sugars, called Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS), is mixed into water and the solution is given for the child to drink. The sugars in the solution make it easier for the intestine to absorb water and salts, and the liquid stays in the body in spite of the diarrhoea. After a few days, with two or three treatments a day, the child will recover completely.

ORS is presently promoted by most international aid and relief agencies. An efficient distribution of ORS is generally considered the single most important contribution towards the reduction of starvation and infant-mortality in the world.

Two difficulties

A common difficulty in promoting ORS is the lack of uncontaminated water. If the mixture is used with infected water, the illness continues. If the mixture is poured into water while it is still boiling, the solution may become toxic.

Another difficulty is the necessity of exact mixing. Over-dilution makes the solution less efficient, whereas over-concentration makes it dangerous.

An improvement

A new concept is a packaged ORS-drink. Most families in third world countries can afford to purchase a few litres of ready-made ORS-drink if it is a matter of life and death for their child. For relief areas, the packaged ORS-drink can be supplied by relief organisations.

Scarab is presently developing a small water plant to make it possible for local breweries to manufacture and sell ORS-drinks and pure bottled water along with other products such as beer and soft-drinks.