Day 29 – How to Save Millions of Lives with only a Bottle and Spoon

Count to 20 right now.  Just do it, quietly in your head.  In that small period of time, somewhere in the world, a young child just died of one of the most dangerous diseases for children around the world.  And what do you think that disease is?

If you just said AIDS, you are wrong.  If you said tuberculosis, you are wrong.  If you said malaria, you got one out of three.

In reality, the top three childhood killers around the world are pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria, in that order. But when was the last time you saw a group of rock stars perform a benefit concert for diarrhea?  We don’t talk about diarrhea because it is an unpleasant and taboo topic for polite conversation.  High profile diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis, who have outspoken celebrity activists, get more attention and money from wealthy donors and governments because they mistakenly believe that they kill the most children.  That is simply not true.

Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death among children under five around the world.  Nearly one in five child deaths – about 1.5 million each year (almost 3 kids every minute, of every day) – is due to diarrhea. That means that somewhere in the world, ONE CHILD DIES EVERY 20 SECONDS FROM DIARRHEA. It kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

And do you know the miraculous medical formula that is the recommended treatment for diarrhea that has been credited with saving the lives of over 50 million children since the 1970’s? (1) It is not complicated, high tech, or hard to understand.  You don’t have to be a nurse to know how to use it, and I bet that you have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now.

The miracle formula for ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) is…

1 liter of water
8 teaspoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt

Memorize that right now.  Write it on your arm.  Remember it forever because in the time that it took you to read this last paragraph, somewhere in the world, another child just died of diarrhea.  The thing to remember is that ORS does not stop diarrhea.  It just rehydrates your body.  90% of the time, diarrhea stops by itself eventually, as long as you don’t die of dehydration first.

The really amazing thing is that it is almost impossible to make ORS improperly, as long as you don’t add too much salt (it should taste no saltier that tears). Even if you don’t have a standard teaspoon to measure, you can crook your index finger and dip it in the bag of sugar or salt.  The amount that you can hold on your crooked finger is about a teaspoon.  Or you can measure out the ingredients by using one big pinch of salt and one fistful of sugar per liter of water. And anywhere in the world you are, it is always possible to find a 1 L or 500 mL plastic bottle! Although it is not preferable or suggested, ORS still works even if it is made with dirty, impure water!

So all you need to do now is buy a plane ticket and get somewhere to start doing justice. You don’t even need a measuring cup or spoons!
Why don’t you join us in Cambodia next summer? You can find more info about dates and costs HERE.

What are you waiting for?  You now have the knowledge, you know the need, and since the last time I mentioned it, another 3 kids, somewhere in the world…

just died from diarrhea .

(1) – Olivier Fontaine, Paul Garner, M K Bhan – Medical Milestones, British Medical Journal, Jan 2007 Vol 334

Todays post is by our friend P. Wade Pallister

Feature image by Lindsey 



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