The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have announced a new formula for the preparation of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) that is designed to minimize the occurrence of acute diarrhoeal disease. The new formula will also help the health agencies achieve the target of reducing child mortality by two-thirds before 2015.
Diarrhea is the second leading cause of child mortality and kills nearly 2 million children each year. The new formula contains a reduced amount of glucose and sodium (245 mOsm/l compared with the previous 311 mOsm/l) so as to allow the fluids to be absorbed more quickly. This will also decrease the need for intravenous fluids and make it simpler to treat children with acute non-cholera diarrhoea without unnecessary hospitalization. ORS is the simplest way of keeping a child alive during episodes of acute diarrhea and replenishing the fast-depleting electrolytes and fluids. WHO is the only organization that has standardized the formula for ORS and keeps updating it constantly. WHO and UNICEF jointly issued the new guidelines. WHO and UNICEF will help national authorities in the adoption of these new recommendations. The organizations also said that adequate provision must be made for zinc supplements and babies should continue to be breast fed during acute episodes of diarrhea. Breastfeeding will protect against dehydration and reduce protein and calorie consumption thus combating diarrhea and malnutrition in children.