Gita Rani, a dedicated Family Welfare Assistant at Dhalhara Community Clinic in Magura district of Bangladesh, disseminating health promotion messages to women in the community during one of her regular visits.

It’s been more than 25 years since Gita Rani began working as a Family Welfare Assistant (FWA) at the Dhalhara Community Clinic in the Magura District of Bangladesh. The clinic caters to a population of approximately 4,615 people who get health education messages from FWAs like her on various issues.

For a long time, Gita, along with her other colleagues, had been disseminating health messages about the management of diarrhoea, hygiene promotion and nutrition in the community to improve awareness on healthy living. Their efforts made a difference − diarrhoeal deaths, especially among children under five, had started to decrease. However, over time, diarrhoea prevalence rates had stagnated.

The tried and tested treatment of oral rehydration salts (ORS) helped children recover from the dehydration that comes with diarrhoea, but they very quickly became ill again, as it doesn’t treat or cure diarrhoea. This added to the frustration of the health workers, who were dedicated to working around the clock to make things better in the community. They needed a better solution.

The game-changer ended up being the diarrhoea management training conducted by Nutrition International in 2019 through the Zinc Alliance for Child Health (ZACH).

The training introduced the health workers to the latest strategies for managing diarrhoeal disease. They learned that zinc supplements help children recover from diarrhoea faster, resist the disease for longer periods and have fewer episodes per year.

“I remember Alif, just three and a half years old, who had been suffering from loose stools for a while,” Gita said as she recalled the case of severe diarrhoea shortly after she received the training. “His mother approached me at the clinic. I prescribed some zinc tablets for Alif, and within a few days, his condition improved. This was a learning experience for Alif’s mother who always thought zinc tablets were used merely to increase the appetite of the children. That day she realized that it also helps in diarrhoea management and in turn, boosts their health.”

For a long time, zinc was an underplayed hero in the Dhalhara Community Clinic. Gita and her colleagues always had a good supply of zinc tablets, but they were unaware of all of its benefits. The training provided by Nutrition International helped them realize its potential to be a life-saving micronutrient.

Gita has dedicated almost half of her life to serving her community. Continuing her journey as a health mentor, she aspires for a nation with zero diarrhoeal deaths.

“I hope that with the scale-up of zinc as an effective diarrhoeal treatment the cases drop to zero,” shared Gita. “I wish for all children to stay healthy.”

ZACH is a global partnership between Teck Resources Limited, the Government of Canada and Nutrition International to reach millions of children with zinc and ORS treatments to help save children’s lives in Senegal, Ethiopia, Kenya and Bangladesh.