In 2010, the International Zinc Association (IZA) launched the “Zinc Saves Kids” initiative in support of UNICEF. Zinc Saves Kids aims at improving the survival, growth and development of undernourished children by funding UNICEF`s zinc supplementation and health care programs in high-burden countries such as Peru and Nepal.
Zinc deficiency ranks among the ten biggest risk factors contributing to disease in developing countries impacting especially young children. Zinc is important for child growth and development and the proper functioning of the immune system. In 2008 an estimated 450,000 children were at risk of dying due to zinc deficiency and millions suffered from long-term health implications due to malnutrition and stunting - a condition where children are too short for their age.
Zinc deficiency is one of the most common micronutrient deficiencies in low-income settings but it can be readily addressed with inexpensive, simple and existing treatments such as zinc supplements. Zinc supplementation as part of an integrated nutrition and health care package has proven effective in preventing and combating chronic malnutrition and stunting and treating acute diarrheal diseases. UNICEF programs co-funded by Zinc Saves Kids in Nepal and Peru have provided excellent results. In Peru health centers providing the combined zinc and oral rehydration salt treatment for diarrhea observed a reduction in diarrhea prevalence of up to 58% and within just three years the prevalence of stunting was reduced by 25%.
While the under-five mortality has been halved since 1990, there are still 6.3 million children under the age of five years who die every year. More than half of these deaths have preventable causes such as diarrhea or pneumonia which account for 29% of under-five deaths.
Despite the progress made by the international community in recent years there is still a challenge to improve this situation further. UNICEF, the World Health Organization, other UN organizations, NGOs and the private sector are accelerating efforts to further reduce child mortality and morbitiy from preventable causes.
IZA continues its efforts through the Zinc Saves Kids initiative. In addition, a number of IZA member companies are engaged in similar initiatives in high-burden countries in Asia and Africa as part of their corporate social responsibility programs. Under the umbrella of the `Mining Compact`the zinc industry contributes more than US$ 4 million annually to save children from preventable deaths.