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Diarrhoea Kills a Child Every 26 Seconds


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Oral Rehydration Salts
Low-osmolarity ORS
Oral Rehydration Therapy
Made at Home
Treat Your Child's Diarrhoea at Home
Frequently Asked Questions
Rice-Based ORS
ORS WHO UNICEF Update
The Salts of Life
Rehydration Saves More Children

Low-osmolarity Oral Rehydration Salts
New Formula of Oral Rehydration Salts
Expert Consultation
WHO UNICEF Statement
New Formula will save millions
New Formula Studies
Low-osmolarity ORS Questions & Answers
Frequently Asked Technical Questions
Production of Low-osmolarity Oral Rehydration Salts

Oral Rehydration Therapy
Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) History
ORT: Celebration and Challenge
How Oral Rehydration Works
Management of Diarrhoea and use of ORT
Achievements and Challenges
25 Years of Saving Lives
Knowledge and Use of ORT
Communication and Social Mobilization
The Solution is in Your Hands
A Solution for Survival
Brochure: A Pocket Reference for Scouts
ORT: Elixir of life
ORT: Saved My Daughter's Life
ORT: Success Stories

Oral Rehydration Therapy

ORS - Oral Rehydration Salts : The most effective, least expensive way to manage diarrhoeal dehydration.

"The discovery that sodium transport and glucose transport are coupled in the small intestine so that glucose accelerates absorption of solute and water (is) potentially the most important medical advance this century."


British Scientific Journal
5th August, 1978


ORS - Oral Rehydration Salts : The most effective, least expensive way to manage diarrhoeal dehydration.

The most effective, least expensive way to manage diarrhoeal dehydration

Photos and Drawings: UNICEF, Ministry of Health, Sultanate of Oman, Hector Cattolica


Worldwide Manufacturers and Suppliers
of commercially packaged Oral Rehydration Salts and Solutions and Rice-based Solutions


Oral Rehydration Salts - Public Service Announcement Videos by UNICEF India

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ORS: Life Saving Treatment for Diarrhoea
ORS: Most Modern Treatment
How to Mix ORS
ORS: Message for Doctors
Loss of Vital Body Fluids
ORS: Drink Extra Fluids
ORS: Available in All Health Facilities
Paediatricians recommend ORS
Replacement of Vital Body Fluids
Modern Treatment for Diarrhoea
ORS: Life Saving Packet


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ORT now helps save more than 1 million children's lives each year

Diarrhoeal diseases are very common among young children and are a leading child killer in developing countries. About 1.2 million children die from dehydration due to diarrhoeal diseases, 80% of them in the first two years of life.

Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT), a simple, cost-effective treatment given at home using either packets of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) costing about 10 cents each or a simple home solution of sugar, salt and water can prevent about 90% of child deaths from diarrhoeal dehydration. UNICEF and its partners have helped more than 45 countries to achieve treating 80% of child diarrhoea cases with ORT.

ORT now helps save more than 1 million children's lives each year, indicating substantial progress towards the goal of halving the child death rate from diarrhoeal diseases during this decade.

This simple method can break the back of the world's leading killer of children.

The first breakthrough is the discovery of Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT). It's importance is that it can stop the dehydration — caused by the draining of the child's body as a result of diarrhoeal infection — which now kills an estimated 1.2 million young children a year and is by far the biggest single cause of death among the developing world's children.

Previously it could only be treated by qualified nurses or doctors using expensive intravenous feeding in an often inaccessible hospital. With the discovery of ORT, it can be treated by a mother giving her child the right mix of sugar, salt and water in her own home.

The need for ORT is clear. The technology is known. The means of dissemination are available. The receptiveness of parents has been demonstrated. The cost is small.

Again what is required is the global will to make this breakthrough available to the millions of children who so desperately require if..

What is diarrhoea and what is ORT?

Diarrhoea is the passage of watery stools. This means body fluids and salts can be quickly lost from the body. The child becomes dry (dehydrated) and this is very dangerous and may kill the child.

Diarrhoea is caused by bacteria or viruses. The key factors are unclean water, dirty hands at mealtime and spoilt food. Children who are malnourished suffer much more; in turn, diarrhoea weakens children and makes them more malnourished. There is always some degree of dehydration, and, most often, the draining of too much fluid from the body is the cause of death.

Diarrhoea can be prevented through exclusive breastfeeding, improved weaning practices, measles immunization, use of latrines, washing hands (the baby's as well), keeping water and food clean, washing with soap before touching food and by sanitary disposal of stools.

Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) is the process of replacing essential body fluids and salts that a child loses in critical quantities during attacks of diarrhoea. The treatment consists of common salt and sugar mixed in one liter of clean drinking water given to the child by mouth.

By replacing lost body fluids, ORT prevents dehydration and nurses the child back to health..

How is ORT administered?

ORS - Oral Rehydration Salts : The most effective, least expensive way to manage diarrhoeal dehydration.A very suitable and effective simple solution for rehydrating a child can be made by using salt, sugar and water. Molasses and other forms of raw sugar can be used instead of white sugar, and these contain more potassium than white sugar. Other solutions: Breast milk, gruels (diluted mixtures of cooked cereals and water), carrot soup, rice water - congee, fresh fruit juice, weak tea, green coconut water or water from the cleanest possible source brought to the boil and then cooled.

You can also use a pre-packed formula called Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) available in a sachet to make a liter of solution.

Reduced osmolarity ORS

grams/litre

mmol/litre

Sodium chloride

2.6

Sodium

75

Glucose, anhydrous

13.5

Chloride

65

Potassium chloride

1.5

Glucose, anhydrous

75

Trisodium citrate, dihydrate

2.9

Potassium

20

Citrate

10

Total Weight 20.5

Total Osmolarity

245

Four Simple Steps

wash hands with soap and water

Download Instruction Guides in English and Creole

Thanks to Charles R. Staubs, D.O. and Jean Michelet

10 Things you should know ...

  • Wash hands with soap and water before preparing solution.
  • Put clean water to the mark from top of the bottle. This is equal to one liter. Put the water in a clean pot.
  • Empty the contents of 1 packet of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) into the water while keeping it stirred.
  • Give the sick child as much of the solution as it needs, in small amounts frequently.
  • Give child alternately other fluids - such as breast milk and juices.
  • Continue to give solids if child is four months or older.
  • If the child still needs ORS after 24 hours, make a fresh solution.
  • ORS does not stop diarrhoea. It prevents the body from drying up. The diarrhoea will stop by itself.
  • If child vomits, wait ten minutes and give it ORS again. Usually vomiting will stop.
  • If diarrhoea increases and /or vomiting persists, take child over to a health clinic.

What do experts say about ORT?

"The discovery of oral rehydration therapy is as important as the discovery of penicillin."
Professor Mamdouh Gabr - Cairo University, Faulty of Medicine

"We believe that, ultimately, widespread adoption of ORT in developing countries will break the vicious cycle of diarrhoea, malnutrition, and death - especially for the principal victims : very young children."
Dr. W B Greennough, Director, International Centre of Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh.

"ORT can rightly be called the medical miracle of this century .... For peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin American, ORT holds the promise of healthier childhoods and more productive adult lives."
Shamsul Hag. Minister for Health and Population Control, Government of Bangladesh.

"Today the high success rate and low cost of ORT makes it the preferred treatment for mildly or moderately dehydrated children. According to current American Academy of Pediatrics practice guidelines, ORT is as effective as IV therapy for treatment of mild to moderate dehydration."
Mayo Clinic

"A significant development in recent years has been the demonstration that dehydration from diarrhoea of any etiology can be treated using a simple glucose-electrolyte solution given by mouth."
Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics - 12th Edition 1983

"Nearly 90% of mortality from diarrhoea is due to fluid loss. Accurate and timely replacement of that loss is lifesaving."
Dr. Norbert Hirschlorn - Nutrition Reviews Volume 40, page 87, 1982


Can Coca-Cola save children’s lives?Can Coca-Cola save children's lives?

ColaLife is working to help multi-nationals leverage their distribution muscle to save children's lives in developing countries. ColaLife wants to work with multinational corporations, such as Coca-Cola to help them use their distribution channels (which are amazing in developing countries) to distribute 'social products' such as oral rehydration salts to the people that need them desperately.

ColaLife is working to get Coca-Cola to open up its distribution channels in developing countries to carry 'social products' such as oral rehydration salts, zinc supplements, SODIS water disinfection bags, or whatever else is required in a particular locality to save lives, particularly children's lives.

You can buy a Coca-Cola virtually anywhere in developing countries but in these same places 1 in 5 children die before their 5th birthday from simple preventable cause like dehydration from diarrhoea. more >>

Selling Survival

The sachets, says UNICEF, should be household items available form every corner shop like soap, batteries, razor-blades or Coca-Cola.Dehydration caused by diarrhoea is the biggest single killer of children in the modern world and diarrhoea itself is one of the major causes of nutritional loss and poor growth.

Now, dehydration can be prevented and nutritional losses minimized by a revolutionary new technique called Oral Rehydration therapy (ORT). To prevent dehydration, oral rehydration salts can be made at home from ordinary household ingredients.

To prevent - or treat - dehydration, sachets of the salts made up to precise WHO/UNICEF formula now cost only a few cents each. But the problem is how to make them available to millions of parents through out the world.

The sachets, says UNICEF, should be household items available form every corner shop like soap, batteries, razor-blades or Coca-Cola.

The State of the World's Children
1985 (UNICEF).


Key resources

Below are some key documents on ORS/ORT. Please also browse our list of helpful websites for more resources.

Other helpful websites



updated: 21 April, 2014

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