Your Average Pharmacy Zinc Product to the Rescue for Developing World Kids

Think zinc is just a health food store supplement? Think again. UNICEF and the International Zinc Association are rolling out a zinc campaign to help prevent more than 800,000 deaths.



A product that is supposed to help you buffer off colds is none other than zinc–which you’ve probably seen readily available at the grocery store or pharmacy during this cold and flu season–and just this week the International Zinc Association (IZA) partnered up with UNICEF to help fight other zinc-deficient-related and co-habiting illnesses, such as pneumonia and malaria. The “Zinc Saves Kids” initiative has already been rolled out in Nepal and the next stop is Brazil.

While some in the West may view zinc as an occasional booster supplement–as it’s found in such drugstore products as Zicam–for children in developing countries zinc is a matter of life and death and indeed zinc-deficiency is the cause of hundreds of thousands of deaths and even more deaths when zinc-deficient individuals are struck with malaria or diarrhea.

Some points from the press release:

  • “Since 2004, the World Health Organisation and UNICEF have recommended zinc supplements for the management of diarrhoea. Since then, about 50 governments have changed their child health policies to include zinc for diarrhoea management.”
  • “Between 2006 and 2008, UNICEF procurement of zinc tablets increased from 20 million to more than 150 million. But this is only a fraction of what is needed to treat affected children worldwide.
  • “In September 2009, former President Bill Clinton noted of the zinc supplementation programmes that ‘there is almost no other strategy on earth that could save that many lives for that little money…, [yet] this is something 90 per cent of us are unaware of or wouldn’t have a clue as to what to do about it.'”
  • “Last month, the “Zinc Saves Kids” initiative was highlighted to German Members of Parliament as an example of innovative use of metals in the modern world. Over 200 metals industry executives convened at Tempelhof airport in Berlin on 28 September where Dr. Jürgen Heraeus, the Chairman of UNICEF Germany, presented the initiative.”

So next time you disregard those supplements your hippie naturopath friend gave you, think twice, and perhaps even consider donating.

[Image: flickr user Clean Wal-Mart]

About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.