Zinc & Health at Teck
Teck is Canada’s largest diversified resource company and one of the world’s largest producers of zinc. Teck’s Zinc & Health programme, launched in 2011, seeks to raise awareness of and provide both short and long-term solutions to zinc deficiency worldwide.
Common in developing countries, zinc deficiency contributes to the deaths of nearly 450,000 children under five annually, mostly due to diarrhoea-related illnesses. Zinc treatments and supplementation are among the most cost-effective health interventions and play a major role in accelerating progress on multiple Millennium Development Goals.
1. Therapeutic Zinc
The Zinc Alliance for Child Health (ZACH), co-founded by Teck, is a public-private-civil society alliance created to develop and sustain zinc treatment programmes that will help save children’s lives. The first partnership under ZACH is a CAD$20 million commitment by Teck, the Micronutrient Initiative and the Government of Canada, aimed at scaling up zinc and oral rehydration salts (ORS) as a diarrhoea treatment in Senegal, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. The programme aims to treat nearly 16 million cases of childhood diarrhoea in sub-Saharan Africa by 2015.
In April 2013, Teck partnered with UNICEF Canada to save the lives of children in three states of India – Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh – by improving access to and use of zinc and ORS. Nearly one quarter of all worldwide deaths of children under the age of five occur in India. The partnership aims to save 150,000 children’s lives by 2017, and 50,000 lives annually going forward by improving coverage of effective diarrhoea treatment and strengthening health care systems in India.
Teck led the creation of Zinc Saves Kids in 2009, an initiative of the International Zinc Association (IZA), to improve the survival, growth and development of undernourished children with micronutrient deficiencies by funding UNICEF’s zinc supplementation programmes in Nepal and Peru. Since the launch of these programmes, over 100,000 children in each country have received life-saving zinc supplements. In addition to fundraising, Zinc Saves Kids engages in global advocacy efforts with governments, development organisations and other donors through social media campaigns, advertising and promotional materials.
In January 2012, Teck announced a three-year agreement with the chemical company BASF to jointly develop innovative and affordable zinc fortification solutions, with the goal of reducing zinc deficiency in developing countries. Zinc from Teck’s smelter in British Columbia will be turned into high-grade zinc oxide by GH Chemicals in Montreal, which BASF will use to make food fortification supplements. Teck and BASF anticipate that up to 100 million people will consume food fortified under the Teck BASF partnership over the three-year programme.
Zinc deficiency affects more than half of the world’s agricultural soils. Crop yield, food security and nutritional quality can all be improved by ensuring that crops have adequate zinc. Research shows a direct link between the zinc deficient soils and incidence of zinc deficiency in people.
In March 2012, Teck signed a two-year sponsorship agreement with the National Agricultural Technology Extension Service Centre of the Ministry of Agriculture of China (NATESC) to expand the use of zinc fertilisers.
Teck’s goal is to educate farmers about the benefits of zinc fertiliser and to encourage fertiliser producers to develop zinc fertiliser products to meet the growing demands of Chinese agricultural production.
A major objective of the Zinc & Health programme is to educate Teck employees and the public about zinc deficiency and the devastating effects of diarrhoea. Teck has developed employee-driven initiatives, including a Zinc & Health quarterly newsletter and a weekly zinc factoid sent to employees. Each of Teck’s 13 operations has a Zinc & Health Captain. Captains participate in Zinc & Health workshops and lead site-level employee engagement programmes.
In 2011, Teck partnered with Free The Children to raise awareness about zinc deficiency at We Day events across Canada, an annual youth empowerment event that motivates young people to take action on local and global issues. For each retweet on Twitter during We Day events, Teck donated $0.50 – the cost of a life-saving zinc treatment – to Zinc Saves Kids. The One Tweet, One Life Twitter campaign reached more than five million Twitter users and received 22,640 retweets. Its hashtag, #1tweet1life, was among the most popular topics on Twitter in Canada on the day of the event.