Oral Rehydration Therapy

The Revolution for Children

In the past decade there has been an increasing attention to community-based services and primary health care programmes supported by national and international agencies. Similarly, the WHO International Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (1981-1990) has been gaining momentum in the less developed countries. Highly encouraging results obtained from recent field studies and campaigns in twenty different countries around the world have shown significant reductions in child mortality and morbidity. These events and outcomes have made it possible for UNICEF to identify four major public health measures having a combined potential which could save the lives of up to seven million children each year, protect the health and growth of many millions more, and help to slow down world population growth. Having gained worldwide support, the Executive Board of UNICEF was prompted to endorse in May 1983 the four measures that involve simple and cost-effective technologies which could successfully pave the way for revolutionary global action through intensive national campaigns. To translate this into a reality, James P. Grant, UNICEF's Executive Director, has called for the initiation of a Revolution for Children through UNICEF's report The State of the World's Children, 1984.

The four revolutionary measures, designated for convenience as GOBI, refer to growth monitoring of young children, oral rehydration therapy, promotion of breast-feeding, and immunization. UNICEF believes that the revolutionary potential of these four principal strategies, which form a class of their own, resides in their combined impact on children's health in the developing countries. Their other important assets include low implementation costs, simple technology involved, and almost universal relevance. None of these measures is new for they have been integral parts of health and nutrition programmes for many years, except for certain improvements in the technology by which they are applied, and the recently acquired confidence in their effectiveness. Ideally, they should also include the equally vital, but more difficult and costly, approaches designated as FFF that involve family spacing, food supplements, and female education.

UNICEF believes that a new avenue is now available to reach the homes of children in all parts of the world with the aim of saving them from sickness and possible death. It contends that primary health care is the idea which makes this revolutionary approach possible. The spread of education, communication, and social organization form the circumstance which makes it practicable. The four revolutionary measures are the techniques which make it affordable even in the midst of the present world recession.