Each day, diarrhea kills more than 1,400 children under the age of five. 90% of these child deaths happen in developing countries in Asia and Africa, where clean drinking water, sanitation and access to urgent medical care is limited.
Therapeutic zinc is a simple and inexpensive treatment for diarrhea. Combined with oral rehydration salts (ORS), zinc can reduce the duration and severity of diarrheal episodes and may also prevent future episodes for up to three months.
Getting the treatment to the people who need it the most requires supportive government policy, sufficient supplies of zinc and educating health care providers and mothers about the benefits of zinc and ORS.
Teck is a founding member of the Zinc Alliance for Child Health (ZACH), a public-private-civil society alliance created to develop and sustain zinc treatment programs that will help save children’s lives.
The first partnership under ZACH is a CAD$20 million commitment by Teck, the Nutrition International and the Government of Canada, aimed at scaling up therapeutic zinc and ORS as a diarrhea treatment in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Senegal.
In April 2013, Teck announced a $5 million 5-year partnership with UNICEF Canada under ZACH to improve the use of and access to therapeutic zinc and ORS to treat childhood diarrhea in India. The partnership aims to save the lives of more than 100,000 children by helping get zinc to those who need it most, and 50,000 lives annually going forward by strengthening health care systems in India.
To date, more than 56 million children have received life-saving zinc treatments as a result of ZACH, and 60,500 community health workers have been trained to strengthen health care systems in these countries.
Micronutrient deficiency is a lack of essential vitamins and minerals such as zinc required in small amounts by the body for healthy growth and development. Today, one in four of the world’s children are malnourished, which increases the risk of stunted growth and impaired development that has devastating long-term effects.
Micronutrient powders are single-dose packets of zinc and other vitamins and minerals in powder form that can be sprinkled onto any ready-to-eat semi-solid food. The powder is used to increase the micronutrient content in a child’s diet without changing their usual dietary habits to ensure they receive enough vital nutrients for healthy development.
Teck led the creation of Zinc Saves Kids in 2009, an initiative of the International Zinc Association (IZA), to improve the survival, growth and development of undernourished children with micronutrient deficiencies by funding UNICEF’s zinc supplementation programs in Nepal and Peru.
Prior to the launch of Zinc Saves Kids, malnutrition was a major public health issue in both Nepal and Peru. Today, UNICEF is reporting substantial progress in both countries in improving child health.
Since the program was formed in 2009, 600,000 children in Nepal and Peru under the age of three have received micronutrient powder containing zinc to improve nutrition and reduce the risk of stunted growth. More than 85,000 mothers and caregivers have been trained about the benefits of zinc through 4,200 mothers’ groups. And finally, following advocacy by UNICEF, US$8.5 million was committed by the Government of Peru in 2013 for the purchase of micronutrient powder to treat an additional 720,000 children nationwide.
Zinc deficiency affects more than half of the world’s agricultural soils. It has a significant impact on crop productivity and may contribute to zinc deficiency among humans. The link between zinc-deficient soils and zinc deficiency in humans is especially prevalent in developing countries that rely on cereal grains as the main source of dietary intake.
Adding zinc to fertilizers has been demonstrated to increase crop yield, food security and nutritional quality by ensuring that crops have an adequate supply of zinc. When this is achieved, overall health and socio-economic conditions in many developing countries can be improved drastically.
Since 2012, Teck has partnered with the International Zinc Association and the National Agricultural Technology Extension Service Centre of the Ministry of Agriculture of China (NATESC) to expand the use of zinc fertilizers. The main objective of the project is to educate farmers about the benefits of zinc fertilizer and to encourage fertilizer producers to develop zinc fertilizer products to meet the growing demands of China’s agricultural production.
To date, the project has carried out more than 120 field trials in China as well as promotional and education programs, including national workshops and training courses for farmers. Crop trial research has found that zinc fertilizer increases crop yield up to 20 per cent and the nutritional content of the grains by up to 40 per cent.
In January 2019, Teck announced a partnership with the World Food Programme to improve the health and economic opportunities of small-scale farmers in China’s Gansu Province. The program seeks to reduce zinc deficiency and improve the quality of farmers’ potato crops by providing zinc-enriched fertilizer, training and support in innovative agricultural practices.
For the pilot program, WFP will work with the Chinese government to reach 10,000 farmers over a three-year period to improve their crops and economic opportunities as well as the nutrition of about 30,000 people expected to purchase potatoes in local markets. Gansu Province was chosen for the project because nearly 80 percent of its arable land is deficient in zinc.
More than 200,000 children are at risk of dying each year due to zinc deficiency, and a further 1.2 billion people around the world suffer from zinc deficiency-related disorders, such as diarrhea, stunted growth and neurological deficits. Unfortunately, the condition and solutions remain relatively unknown to the general public.
Teck supports a number of organizations who focus on government advocacy and raising awareness about child health interventions, including the UN’s Diarrhea and Pneumonia Working Group, the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and the UN Foundation’s Every Woman, Every Child movement.
Teck has held three innovative awareness campaigns since 2011, including:
Zinc Saves Lives Battery Recycling Campaign
This campaign encourages students to recycle used batteries at Call2Recycle location across Canada to divert electronic waste from landfills and help save a child’s life. Every AA battery contains the equivalent amount of zinc that can save the lives of six children. For every battery recycled until August 2016, Teck donated the value of zinc recycled to UNICEF in support of our Zinc & Health partnership in India. To date, more than 2.2 million batteries have been recycled as a result of the campaign.
Send One, Save One E-Postcard Campaign
Our Send One, Save One e-postcard campaign gave participants the opportunity to help save a child’s life while raising awareness about zinc deficiency. For every e-postcard sent, Teck donated $0.50 to UNICEF – the cost of a life-saving zinc treatment. By the end of the campaign, 3,240 e-postcards had been sent to recipients in 102 countries around the world.
One Tweet, One Life Twitter Campaign
Our One Tweet, One Life Twitter campaign harnessed the power of social media to raise awareness about zinc deficiency around the world. For each retweet of our message on Twitter, Teck donated $0.50 to Zinc Saves Kids. The campaign reached more than 5 million Twitter users and received 22,640 retweets. Its hashtag, #1tweet1life, was a trending topic in Canada, which means it was among the most popular topics on Twitter on the day of the event.
The World Health Organization has recognized that there are more than 1.2 billion people worldwide who suffer from a variety of micronutrient deficiencies including zinc deficiency. Micronutrients such as zinc are only needed in small amounts, but are critical, especially in the first five years of life, to a child’s healthy development.
Fortifying staple foods, such as flour, rice or milk, with zinc is a highly cost-effective measure for reducing widespread micronutrient deficits.
In 2012, Teck partnered with the chemical company BASF to jointly develop affordable zinc fortification solutions, with the goal of reducing zinc deficiency in developing countries. Zinc from Teck’s operation in British Columbia was turned into high-grade zinc oxide by GH Chemicals in Montreal, which BASF uses to make food fortification supplements for flour and rice products. To date, the Teck and BASF partnership has provided some 100 million people with access to zinc-fortified staple foods to improve nutrition.
Teck also supports a World Food Programme rice fortification pilot project in Odisha India, where 65% of children suffer from zinc deficiency. For the duration of the project, more than 129,000 children currently receive a fortified mid-deal meal every day at school. The WFP project aims to improve the nutrition and performance of school-age children while also building capacity of local rice millers to increase the availability of fortified rice.