|Poster: Guy Godfree for ColaLife, by permission|
Add six T. sugar and ½ t. salt to one liter of clean water. Mix, give to children with diarrhea, and save millions of lives. This is the recipe for Oral Rehydration Salts, a premier health innovation of 20th century. ORS was first tested in 1971 during the Bangladeshi War of Independence. Cholera was rampant and medical treatment scarce. ORS dropped the fatality rate from 30% to 1%.
Further refinements have followed over the years. Developing world clinics provide ORS sachets. Affluent world parents reach for Pedialyte bottles, just a premixed glucose/electrolyte solution. ORS helps the body retain water, combating diarrhea’s lethal weapon: dehydration, for which infants and young children are at especially high risk. Malnourished children's risk is yet higher.
But every year, over a million children still die of diarrhea. How can that be?
Simon Berry, an affable British humanitarian health project manager, worked in Zambia and marveled at Coca-Cola's kiosks located in even the remotest of locations. Was there a way to link distribution of vital medicines to Coke deliveries?
His 1988 epiphany went nowhere. But the idea stuck with him and in 2011 he and his wife Jane posted their vision on Facebook. Combine a reusable, resealable container, 8 ORS sachets, and zinc tablets (an added diarrhea treatment). Add a bar of soap, emphasizing prevention. Calibrate in single doses that toddlers can sip over 24 hours, with a cover to keep away the dirt and flies. Brand and package it attractively and catch a ride with Coke.
People loved their proposal. The resulting Kit Yamoyo (meaning "Kit of Life") fits into the negative spaces between crated Coca-Cola bottles. Designed by PI Global, this award-winning package is showing itself very successful in trials. Vendors purchase them along with Coke, netting small profits on local village retail sales. The first purchaser was a distributor whose grandson had a bad case of diarrhea. Coca-Cola's structure is decentralized; it has supported the project without direct involvement.
Demand is strong. A mom with a sick child wants to know she is doing the right thing. This kit helps her treat the illness more confidently. And who doesn't like coupons, especially since children in the developing world average three diarrhea episodes a year? The kit's retail cost is low, the equivalent of the price of five bananas.
You can follow their carefully designed evaluation trial’s progress on their blog. ColaLife consults extensively with end users. It is a splendid example of co-creation, demonstrating that well-designed, branded, affordable products will save kids' lives.
A bonus: the container is made of PET plastic and may be reusable as a SODIS container.
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IDEA Want to do something major? Take ColaLife to another region. ColaLife is an open source project. Each country needs its own version, connecting NGO's, health ministries, and the national Coca-Cola bottling network.
IDEA How about introducing it in the USA? ColaLife would like to someday subsidize its humanitarian sales by marketing to affluent customers. Its eco-friendly packaging would be greener than the standard bottles, and consumers respond well to cause-related marketing.
Judith Simeon, an organizer with peasant and women’s groups, said that after the Haiti earthquake, “I put together a group of people; we each went and helped others.... I used what I knew with dehydrated people, especially little children and elderly ones who were so weak. I gave them oral rehydration serum with water, salt, and sugar. - Beverly Bell, for WP, 2010