KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka
A NEW award-winning treatment kit, designed, tested and manufactured in the country, is set to address one of the countryâ€™s top concerns – access across the country to essential medicines for child health.
Kit Yamoyo, designed by United Kingdom (UK) charity ColaLife, was first developed and tested in Zambia in 2012 in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Zambian manufacturer Pharmanova and a non-governmental organisation Keepers Zambia Foundation (KZF).
The kit is the first diarrhea treatment in the world designed specifically for families to use easily at home. It contains oral rehydration salts (ORS) as well as zinc, which are the global recommendations for childhood diarrhoea, and are always advised as the first-line treatment as they are safer and more appropriate than antibiotics in many ways.
A key part of the kit design process was asking Zambian caregivers as well as health specialists about problems in accessing the correct treatment for diarrhoea close to home, and using it conveniently and effectively at home.
The Ministry of Health is eager to improve access to essential medicines in the country, and has welcomed public and private endeavours to bring treatment closer to home and drive out an unnecessary scourge which affects families and their children across the nation.
â€œDiarrhoea is third biggest killer of children under five years old in Zambia. It also contributes to stunting â€“ poor growth and development often among Zambian children. We as a government recognise that the private sector has its role to play, alongside what we can do through the public sector. Access is the main barrier and we need to address this through many channels,â€ says Minister of Health Joseph Kasonde.
The Kit Yamoyo designer ColaLife is an independent nonprofit organisation run and staffed by volunteers. Although it seeks to work with corporates to bring about social change, it is not affiliated to any other organisation and its work with others does not imply an endorsement of any product or brand. It is proud of what it does.
â€œCoca Cola seems to get everywhere in developing countries, yet essential medicines donâ€™t. Why? ColaLife uses the same principles and networks that Coca Cola and other commodity producers use, to open up private sector supply chains for â€˜social productsâ€™ such as oral rehydration salts and zinc supplements,â€ according to its website.
â€œWe began with the concept of using space in Coca Cola crates â€“ but have extended into a range of innovations, some based on Coca Colaâ€™s expertise and networks â€“ but many based on questioning the status quo.
â€œYou can buy a Coca Cola virtually anywhere in developing countries but in these same places, one in nine children die before their fifth birthday from simple preventable causes like dehydration from diarrhoea. Thatâ€™s more than 16 times the average for developed regions.â€
The organisation started as an online â€˜movementâ€™ in 2008, and became an independent UK charity in 2011, and now boasts of more than 10,000 online supporters who have given it the power to engage Coca Cola, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and other key stakeholders.
â€œWhat has been good about working with Coca Cola is that we have learnt how they do it and they have helped us in this learning process. Many people wouldnâ€™t work with Coca Cola on principle but this, we believe, is a mistake. Coca Cola has achieved things â€“ in terms of distribution â€“ that the public and NGO sector have not, albeit with a fizzy drink,â€ says ColaLife chief executive officer Simon Berry.
â€œWhat we believe we have done is apply the learning from Coca Cola and apply it to an essential medicine that addresses the second biggest killer of under-five children in sub-Saharan Africa, namely dehydration from diarrhoea.â€
The Kit Yamoyo will be distributed in Shoprite outlets across the country, which will help in reaching out to as many people as possible.
â€œWith 22 stores in 19 towns, Shoprite has the widest reach of any supermarket. We are proud to open up access to an affordable, world class treatment, made in Zambia.
This will help thousands of Zambians across the country to save their childrenâ€™s lives and ensure better health,â€ says Shoprite spokesperson Mathew Kaubo.
Kit Yamoyo, which will be selling at less than K10, contains four new, small, flavoured ORS sachets, which can be prepared using water exactly measured in the clever packaging provided. This means that small quantities, suitable for a child, can be mixed up freshly and accurately whenever needed.
The kit also contains 10 orange flavoured dispersible zinc pills that can be taken directly or dissolved in milk or food over 10 days, to strengthen a childâ€™s immunity.
It also contains a small bar of hand washing soap, since diarrhea is so easily passed on to other family members through unwashed hands.
Keepers Zambia Foundation will Kit Yamoyo set to improve child health promote the kit in Lusakaâ€™s townships and in remote areas through two awareness and training projects made possible by funding from donors such as the Department for International Development (DFID) of the British Government.
The kit, which has been shortlisted and won awards such as UK Packaging Awards, GSK and Save The Children Healthcare Innovation Award, 2014 Health Systems Social Media Award (Transparency), FastCompanyâ€™s Innovation by Design Awards, Breakthrough Innovation for Child Health, UN General Assembly and Making More Health Award â€“ Boehringer Ingelheim/Ashoka Changemakers, among others, will also be sold by trained retailers including makes-shift ones such as Tutembas.
And at the same time, Medical Stores Limited will distribute a government version of the kit through health centres in some of Zambiaâ€™s most remote areas through the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) programme, supported by a range of partners and funders including DFID, Irish Aid and the Swedish Government.
â€œWe wanted to create a sustainable, locally owned, world-class product for Zambia. ColaLife takes no profit from sales or manufacture, but helps Zambians contribute to child health: whether through better awareness and training, better business, or better serving citizens,â€ Mr Berry, the ColaLife chief executive officer, says.
â€œAlready, Pharmanova has created 24 new jobs and kit Yamoyo boosted the correct use of ORS and zinc in Katete and Kalomo in diarrhoea cases â€“ up from one percent to 45 percent.
Through the help of our partner KZF, the kit is now being welcomed enthusiastically, even in far-flung areas like Mongu, Kalabo, Kasama and Mansa.â€
With the rainy season here, which helps bring about a high risk of childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, Kit Yamoyo could not have come at a better time than now.
â€˜You can buy a Coca Cola virtually anywhere in developing countries but in these same places, one in nine children die before their fifth birthday from simple preventable causes like dehydration from diarrhoea. Thatâ€™s more than 16 times the average for developed regions.â€™
KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka