Guest post written by Noah Levinson, founder and director of Calcutta Kids
Every hour, 40 young children in India die from a disease which has afflicted every person reading this blog at one time or another â€” diarrhea. For most of us, diarrhea is a mere annoyance, a discomfort, one easily remedied by a few Pepto-Bismol tablets. But for hundreds of thousands of children in India and the developing world, diarrhea kills. In fact, diarrhea remains the second leading killer of children in the world. Jolkona partner Calcutta Kids is saving lives with a proven model of treatment and education that costs a mere $10 per child.
Effective, inexpensive treatment saves lives
Itâ€™s not actually the diarrhea that kills, but rather the dehydration caused by the diarrhea. While oral rehydration solution (ORS) is readily available throughout India, it is often misused or not enough of it is given to properly rehydrate the child. Providing ORS in a clinical setting greatly increases a child’s chance of survival.
Calcutta Kids has replicated the successful model of the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, which annually treats more than 180,000 diarrhea-afflicted patients in Bangladesh by providing oral rehydration solution in a clinical setting. Situated in a slum area outside of Kolkata, India, Calcutta Kids’ clinic officially opened in March 2011. Since then, it has successfully treated more than 200 young children with a combination of treatments: ORS, zinc, and very occasional use of antibiotics, plus behavior-change communication to promote good hygiene habits. Treatments usually last two to four hours, and families receive a follow-up home visit by a trained health worker to ensure that the child is recuperating and to provide life-saving information to the childâ€™s caretaker.
One of the innovative components of this treatment is that the protocol is guided by a database to ensure that each step is followed. Through alarms in the database, nurses are informed when the next checkup must take place; through a graph, the doctor can estimate the childâ€™s level of dehydration. The database also ensures that a trained health worker provides behavior-change communication before the child can be discharged.
How you can help
Through Jolkona, Calcutta Kids has found a platform through which we can sustain our efforts to fight these senseless child deaths from diarrhea. At a cost of only $10 per treatment, we hope that people of all means will be able to finance one diarrhea treatment each month â€” and quite possibly, save a childâ€™s life. We also encourage caring individuals and families to commemorate a loved oneâ€™s birthday or a holiday with a truly meaningful gift: a second chance at life for a child.
And when you donate to Calcutta Kids, we will make sure that you know how your money has been spent by sending you a digital copy of the discharge certificate of the treated child (with the name omitted for confidentiality purposes) with a full explanation of the services provided.
Noah Levinson, MPH, is the founder and executive director of Calcutta Kids, a nonprofit organization he founded while he was an undergraduate student at Marlboro College. He is also a founding board member of Jolkona Foundation and has provided Jolkona with invaluable guidance since our early days.
Calcutta Kids is an organization committed to the empowerment of the poorest children and expecting mothers in the underserved slums in and around Kolkata, India. Calcutta Kids is well versed at leveraging its resources â€” something we seek to emulate at Jolkona Foundation.