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First Zinc Treatment Produced in Africa Aims to Reduce Child Deaths from Diarrhea

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Locally produced zinc tablets to treat childhood diarrhea, one of the leading causes of child mortality in developing countries, are available for the first time in Africa thanks to a public-private partnership in Tanzania managed by AED that includes the largest pharmaceutical company in East Africa.

The new zinc tablets are priced to be affordable to poor families; a full course of ten tablets costs the equivalent of 31 U.S. cents. The product was recently launched in Tanzania by Shelys Pharmaceuticals, which plans to make it available in six east and central African countries.

Two AED projects, Point-of-use Water Disinfection and Zinc Treatment (POUZN) and Tanzania Marketing and Communications (T-MARC), both funded by USAID, supported Shelys in upgrading the quality of production, advocating for fast-tracked government approval of the treatment, and planning for the product launch.

Endorsed by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, zinc treatment has been proven to reduce diarrheal deaths in children by 13 to 21 percent. It also decreases the severity and duration of the illness and can prevent future cases of childhood diarrhea.

“Childhood diarrhea causes more than 700,000 deaths annually in Africa. The availability of the dissolvable zinc tablets is vital to reducing childhood mortality in the region,” said Martin Alilio, T-MARC Project Director.

Recognizing that all sectors of society can work together to create a sustainable health impact, AED has created partnerships among NGOs, and the public and private sectors to make zinc treatment available to Tanzanians, particularly lower-income families.

AED’s partnership with the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare will allow zinc treatment to be incorporated into the public health system, which provides 45 percent of the country’s health care. The Ministry with AED assistance will train public-sector health professionals on new government guidelines for diarrhea management, which call for increased use of oral rehydration therapy/solution and zinc treatment, continued breastfeeding of children, and reduced use of antibiotics to treat diarrhea.

To reinforce the new government guidelines, AED and Shelys are creating sustainable demand for the product through education campaigns that explain the benefits of zinc treatment to health professionals, drug sellers and the general public. NGOs will also conduct outreach to further promote the new treatment.

“AED has been able to make life-saving treatments available to large sectors of the population, especially poor families, by acting as a catalyst for the creation of successful public-private partnerships,” said Margaret Parlato, senior vice president and director of the AED Global Health, Population, and Nutrition Group. “As a result of AED’s work, the local public and private sectors are working together in Tanzania to create a sustainable market for zinc treatment.”

AED ( is a nonprofit organization working in all the major areas of human development with a focus on improving education, health, and economic opportunities for the least advantaged in the United States and developing countries throughout the world.

Posted June 2007

Read more about the Tanzania Marketing and Communications Project (T-MARC) project