The development community mourns the loss of visionary leader Chandra Sharma, Senior Director of Essential Medicines for the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).
Mr. Sharma pioneered CHAI’s Zinc & Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) Program, an important initiative to reduce diarrhea-related child mortality through significant scale-up of zinc and ORS use. Globally, diarrhea claims the lives of almost 600,000 children each year, and almost 10% of children who die under the age of five die from dehydration from diarrhea. Zinc and ORS are simple, highly effective, and affordable treatments that can prevent over 90% of diarrhea-related deaths, yet only about a third of children afflicted with diarrhea are receiving ORS treatment and even fewer also receive zinc.
The CHAI Zinc and ORS Program focuses on four countries—India, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda—where it aims to increase access to and use of zinc and ORS. In each country, CHAI partners with the government and local stakeholders, including small NGOs and pharmaceutical entrepreneurs, to create viable and sustainable businesses that build demand for zinc and ORS and ensure widespread availability in public and private facilities, particularly in rural areas. To date, CHAI’s Zinc and ORS Program has reached nearly 250 million people, and it includes a network of nearly 150,000 service providers.
Mr. Sharma’s tenure in public health was largely influenced by nearly forty years of service in the private sector, applying business principles and practices to public health. He will be sorely missed.