Government of Canada, Teck and Micronutrient Initiative announce partnership to implement life-saving zinc treatment programs

Babacar, 4 months old, was treated for diarrhoea at the Joal Health Centre in Senegal.

Babacar, 4 months old, was treated for diarrhoea at the Joal Health Centre in Senegal.

Ottawa, ON – The Micronutrient Initiative (MI) and Teck Resources Limited (Teck) announced today they are joining hands in a new partnership to develop and sustain zinc treatment programs to help save children´s lives.

Private and public partnerships are important to CIDA and the Government of Canada. The partnership between MI and Teck Resources demonstrates how responsible businesses can take an active role and form working relationships with non-profit organizations to help save the lives of children and of the world’s most vulnerable.

“Partnerships are crucial in effective international development. CIDA is proud to have a long standing partnership with the Micronutrient Initiative,” said Minister Oda. “Our partnership means that around the world children are healthier and mothers are stronger. This means they have a chance to learn, work and build stronger families and communities.”

Zinc is essential for all living organisms. In children, zinc is vital for brain development, growth and the immune system. It can help protect the body from illnesses and to fight infections. According to the World Health Organization, zinc deficiency is one of the leading risk factors associated with diseases such as diarrhoea, and one of the most common killers of children in developing countries, contributing to the deaths of 450,000 children under the age of five each year.

“The use of zinc, in combination with oral rehydration therapy, to help children recover from life-threatening diarrhoea is well-known. However, this treatment is not being used enough in countries that have high numbers of children dying,” said Venkatesh Mannar, President of the Micronutrient Initiative, a leading Canadian development organization. “This new partnership provides a huge boost to zinc programming that will save children’s lives.”

This new relationship is a public-private-civil society alliance committed to reducing child mortality by scaling up the use of zinc, combined with oral rehydration salts, to treat diarrhoea, and by providing zinc supplementation for children over six months old.

Each partner will commit resources and leverage support from other private sector and public entities to tackle what is recognized as one of the most serious problems affecting people in the world’s developing countries. As the partnership grows, it is anticipated that other stakeholders will join in this effort to strengthen health programs for children.

“The challenge the world faces is not producing more zinc. It is getting zinc into the diets of people suffering from zinc deficiency,” said Don Lindsay, President and CEO of Teck Resources. “By partnering with CIDA and the Micronutrient initiative we are putting in place a framework to dramatically improve awareness about zinc deficiency, enhance distribution systems and ultimately save children’s lives.”

The first project under the Zinc Alliance for Child Health (ZACH) will be to support the Ministry of Health in Senegal to dramatically scale up the use of zinc supplements, along with oral rehydration salts, for the treatment of diarrhoea.

Joining the announcement in Ottawa this week is Dr. Mame Mbayame Gueye Dione, head of the Senegal Ministry of Health’s Division of Food, Nutrition and Child Survival.

“We have been preparing to introduce zinc supplementation in the health system in Senegal for some time,” said Dr. Mbayame. “The financial and technical support from this partnership gives us the resources to bring this new treatment to scale in the country and save children’s lives. The Zinc Alliance for Child Health will be a new development investment model and we are pleased that Senegal was chosen for the partnership’s first in-country project.”

The approach is recognized as a high impact solution that supports Canada’s Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Initiative objectives.

Today’s commitment strengthens Canada’s aid effectiveness by maximizing committed funds from Canada´s private sector, as well as targets Canada’s G8 objectives of the Muskoka Initiative for child health, and helps in the efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals.