Bihar Development Commissioner S. Vijayaraghavan (centre) flanked by Dr. Utpal Kant Singh, National Vice-President of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics, (right) and Bijaya Rajbhandari, State Representative, UNICEF Office for Bihar.
Patna, Bihar, July 9, 2008: Bihar has become one of India’s pioneering states to launch the use of Zinc along with Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) for the management of diarrhoea, which is the leading cause of death among infants.
Bihar Development Commissioner S. Vijayaraghavan inaugurated the new initiative in the state capital amidst leading pediatricians and health officials.
He announced that the district of Vaishali had been chosen for the use of the twin weapons against the potentially fatal disease for children and the programme would be scaled-up across the entire state, subsequently.
Zinc, in addition to prevention and treatment of dehydration with ORS, breastfeeding, continued feeding and selective use of antibiotics, has been recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.
The new strategy has proven to be effective in reducing the duration and severity of diarrhoeal episodes and lower their incidence.
The Bihar State Health Society has chosen Vaishali district for the launch of the programme along with support from the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP), the National Neonatology Forum (NNF) and UNICEF. The government will be expanding the initiative to the entire state.
Additional Director Department. of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Bihar, Dr. Raman also graced the occasion. National Vice-President, IAP and President NNF-Bihar, Dr. Utpal Kant Singh, President, IAP-Bihar, Dr. S.B.P. Singh, and UNICEF State Representative, Bijaya Rajbhandari participated in the launch.
Diarrhoea remains one of the largest killers of infants. A 10- to 14-day therapy of zinc treatment can considerably reduce the duration and severity of diarrhoeal episodes, decrease stool output, and lessen the need for hospitalization.
“This is a pioneering step towards reducing child deaths in Bihar and will help accelerate Bihar and India’s progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two-third by 2015,” said Rajbhandari, adding: “With today’s launch, the government and the entire paediatric community has once again reaffirmed their staunch commitment towards child survival in Bihar.”
UNICEF, which has a long-standing association with the central and state governments, has committed to spearhead this important effort in upto 18 districts across India in order to increase awareness and refine national guidelines through experience in diverse cultural and health system settings.
UNICEF will be supporting the initiative by providing about 2.9 million Zinc tablets for use in management of diarrhoea in children through the health facilities and Anganwadi (childcare) Centre of the district.
Vaishali has been chosen as it is one of UNICEF’s integrated districts and has extensive programming activity, giving it the opportunity to link this effort with the ongoing Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illness (IMNCI) Initiative. Training of primary health workers and Anganwadi Workers in Vaishali for implementation of this initiative is underway.
The Government of Bihar is in the process of rate contracting Zinc and will be expanding the programme across the state soon. UNICEF will also continue to provide technical support to the government for scale-up across the state.
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