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close this bookPopulation and Health (FAO Population Education Leaders Guides)
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentAims/objectives
View the documentBasic concepts
View the documentActivity no. 1 - Basic needs for good health
View the documentActivity no. 2 - Preparing oral rehydration treatment solution
View the documentActivity no. 3 - A visit or visits from a social worker from the ministry of health

Activity no. 2 - Preparing oral rehydration treatment solution

Preparing oral rehydration treatment solution

A group activity to stress the potential of oral rehydrations therapy in saving the lives of infants affected by diarrhœa



  • The leader explains that one of the major causes of infant mortality is dehydration (loss of body fluids) as a result of diarrhœa The leader also describes the signs of dehydration.
  • The leader then tells the group the story on the following pages.
  • After the story, the group prepares a litre of oral rehydration solution and discusses its proper use.
  • To conclude the activity, the group members comment on the value of oral rehydration treatment (ORT) and perhaps identify babies in the community that are suffering from diarrhœa, or families in which a baby has died from dehydration.


So that the group members will be able to:

  • Recognize the symptoms of dehydration as a result of diarrhœa in infants.
  • Understand the potential of oral rehydration treatment (ORT) in saving lives of infants with diarrhœa.
  • Prepare and use ORT when necessary.



  • The story and background information on the following pages.
  • The following supplies: a one-litre bottle (for example, a large cold drink bottle); clean water; salt; sugar; a clean spoon.
  • Interest and participation.

Some background information for the group leader

Is diarrhœa a serious health problem for babies?

In Africa, infections are very common among babies. When a baby gets an intestinal infection, it often gets diarrhœa When a baby has diarrhœa it loses a lot of body fluids and can become dehydrated. This dehydration is very serious and can cause death if not treated quickly and properly. In fact, more babies die from diarrhœa-related dehydration than from the infections that are the cause of the diarrhœa

What are the signs of diarrhœa-related dehydration? diarrhœa means that the baby defecates very often and its faeces are very watery. This loss of body fluids results in the baby's eyes looking as if they are very far hack in its head and even if the baby cries it often sheds no tears. In addition, the baby's head can begin to look wrinkled or shriveled.

What can be done to help dehydrated babies?

There is a special liquid which can easily be prepared and given to the baby to drink. This is called oral rehydration treatment (ORT) solution.



Clean safe. Drinking water

To make oral rehydrations solution, you need to mix four large spoonfuls of sugar and one small spoonful of salt in one litre of boiled, clean water. (Packages of the right mix of salt and sugar can also be obtained at local stores or health clinics.)

Once the liquid has cooled, it should be given to the baby to drink by spoonfuls every half hour. The amount of liquid depends on the age of the baby.

If the baby is less than one year old, it should be given 10 spoonfuls every half hour. If the baby is between one and three years old, 15 spoonfuls every half hour. Between three and five years old, 20 spoonfuls every half hour.

Sarah and Harry
The story to start off the activity

One day, Sarah and her brother Harry went to visit their Aunt Jane, but when they got to her house they could hear their aunt crying. "Maybe we should come back another time," said Harry but Sarah said they should go in to see what was wrong. "Just like a girl to stick her nose in other people's business," said Harry, but he followed his sister into the house.

Sarah and Harry

"What's the matter Aunt Jane?" asked Sarah. Between sobs her aunt said, "It's the baby. She's sick and has diarrhœa Already this morning, I've had to clean her five times." Calmly, Sarah looked at her baby cousin. She noticed that the baby had sunken eyes and although she was crying, there were no tears on her face. Sarah also thought that the baby's head didn't look exactly right.

"Aunt Jane," said Sarah, "the baby is losing body fluids because of the diarrhœa and it's very important that we take care of her at once."

"But what can we do?," wailed Aunt Jane. 'The hospital is so far away and I have no money."

"What we need to do is to prepare a special liquid to give the baby to drink," said Sarah. "It's called oral rehydration treatment (ORT) solution.

Then Sarah turned to her brother and said, "Harry, get a bottle, some salt, some sugar and a clean spoon."

"Just like a girl to think she can boss everybody around," said Harry, but he went to fetch the things his sister needed.

Sarah put some clean water in a pot to boil and at the same time she explained to her aunt what they were going to do.

"We need to mix four large spoonfuls of sugar and one small spoonful of salt with one litre of hot, clean water. Then, when the mixture is cool, you should give the baby 10-20 spoonfuls to drink every half hour. This will help the baby rebuild her body fluids. This is very important because if a baby becomes very dehydrated it can even die."

Aunt Mary did as Sarah had told her and in a few days, the baby got over her infection and was just fine when Sarah and Harry came by to visit.

"Well, I guess you did know something after all," said Harry.

"Just like a girl," said Sarah.

Sarrah and Harry and the child