ColaLife is a catalyst – that’s all

As we all learn to live with COVID, ColaLife is working to re-start its ORS/Zinc co-packaging advocacy work, which stopped as COVID emerged, overwhelming many of the partners we need to make this happen. We will have exciting announcements to make about this re-start in the next couple of weeks – but here’s a preview:

In the process of this re-start it has become clear that there is still confusion about what ColaLife is, how we operate and the change we want to see which we address here. Hopefully, this will be a useful refresher for ColaLife supporters and regular readers of this blog. It will also be helpful to have a post to point others to who are still unclear about what we are and how we operate. We thought we’d set about this task through a set of frequently asked questions.


How would ColaLife benefit from an increased uptake of co-packaged ORS and Zinc?

ColaLife is a UK-based charity (non-profit), which does not trade. We exist to improve and save children’s lives specifically through increasing access to ORS and Zinc for the treatment of diarrhoea. We would benefit from an increased uptake of co-packaged ORS and Zinc as this would help us achieve a key objective of our organisation.


Is ColaLife’s interest in ORS/Zinc products commercial?

No. ColaLife has never had a commercial interest in any ORS/Zinc product. ColaLife has never taken profit from the sale of ORS or Zinc or a co-packaged ORS/Zinc product. Our way of working was to support existing private sector actors in Zambia, that make, sell, distribute and take profit from the Kit Yamoyo product we helped to design, pilot and bring to the market. Since the first trial in Zambia (2012/13) we have not bought, sold or distributed any ORS, Zinc or co-packaged ORS/Zinc products. We pride ourselves on this approach and do not intend to engage in any commercial transaction in the future.


So, why does ColaLife have an interest in advocacy for co-packaged ORS and Zinc?

ColaLife has been working to increase access to co-packaged ORS and Zinc since 2008. We brought together partners in Zambia and raised the money to run a trial in 2012/13. We then went on to help scale-up an ORS/Zinc co-pack called ‘Kit Yamoyo‘. Throughout this work, ColaLife’s role was catalytic. At no point did we do anything that made us a permanent part of the solution to the problem of access to ORS and Zinc for diarrhoea treatment in Zambia. We operated in this way so that the changes we helped create were self-sustaining beyond our initial involvement.
ColaLife left Zambia in 2018. Following the success of the work in Zambia, our focus changed: we started looking at how we might globalise the impact of our learning beyond Zambia. Our strategy to do this was based on the objective of changing the global recommendation for diarrhoea treatment to co-packaged ORS and Zinc. Our theory of change was that if we could change the policy environment in favour of co-packaged ORS and Zinc then this would make country- (or state-) level initiatives to increase coverage of ORS and Zinc for diarrhoea treatment easier to implement around the world. Again our role in achieving this was catalytic. We made the case to the Diarrhoea Innovations Group (DIG) that this should be a key strand of activity for the group; we then led this activity within the group. For a full timeline please see Success: WHO adds co-packaged ORS and Zinc to its Essential Medicines List.
ColaLife is now focussed on accelerating the uptake of this new WHO global recommendation by national governments and supporting local efforts to increase coverage of co-packaged ORS and Zinc. ColaLife will continue to act in a catalytic way to achieve this.


Does ColaLife receive funding from anyone with a commercial interest in ORS/Zinc products?

No. We never have done and do not intend to pursue this model in future.


Does ColaLife have a relationship with any commercial producers of ORS/Zinc products?

Yes, but this is not relevant to our global advocacy work. From 2012 to 2018 we worked closely with a small, local pharmaceutical manufacturer in Zambia to develop a co-packaged ORS/Zinc product. Initially this product was aimed at the private sector and branded ‘Kit Yamoyo‘. This company is called Pharmanova (Zambia) Limited. Subsequently, Pharmanova have developed a government-branded version, which they sell to Zambia’s Ministry of Health, to distribute free of charge through government health centres. During our scale-up work in Zambia (2014-18) ColaLife worked with Zambian partners to develop the market for Kit Yamoyo and Pharmanova supplied directly to this market, not to ColaLife.


Who owns the Kit Yamoyo brand?

Kit Yamoyo‘ is trademarked in the UK and through bilateral agreements this trademark is recognised in Zambia. The trademark is owned by ColaLife and we have granted exclusive rights to Pharmanova to use this trademark in Zambia. These rights have been granted to Pharmanova by ColaLife free of charge and we are in the process of transferring the trademark to Pharmanova. In Zambia, the Kit Yamoyo brand is associated with this local manufacturer. ColaLife’s brand has never appeared on the product packaging alongside the ‘Kit Yamoyo’ name nor on any of the customer-facing materials (eg advertising, promotional materials). Our strategy was, and remains, to be ‘invisible’ to the customer.


Can other manufacturers adopt or adapt co-packaging design features ColaLife has helped design?

Yes. All of our learning, including any design features for ORS/Zinc co-packaging, is Open Source.


Is ColaLife funded by The Coca-Cola Company?

No. When we were designing the original trial (2010-11) we benefitted from significant knowledge transfer from the Coca-Cola Company to ColaLife on the Coca-Cola distribution system and how it works. Then, in the trial, ColaLife emulated the Coca-Cola distribution system, applying it to a co-packaged ORS/Zinc product (Kit Yamoyo). This knowledge transfer was done through face-to-face meetings and virtual meetings up until mid-2011. There has been no on-going contact with The Coca-Cola Company since then.


So where does ColaLife get its funding from?

Currently, ColaLife has one primary source of funding: the Isenberg Family Charitable Foundation. This relationship is facilitated through Ceniarth LLC a single-family office focused on funding market-based solutions that benefit underserved communities.


Why the focus on co-packaging?

Because this is the new global recommendation (since July 2019). The WHO Essential Medicines List now reads:

The new WHO Essential Medicines List listing for diarrhoea

The last recommendation change was in 2004 and that was that diarrhoea cases should be treated with both ORS and Zinc. Now, nearly two decades later, less that 10% of cases are treated in this way and there will have been thousands of preventable deaths as a result. We don’t want to see a similar delay in the uptake of this new co-packaging recommendation.


Does ORS and Zinc need to be co-packaged?

No, it doesn’t but the evidence suggests that if it is not co-packaged, very few cases are treated with both ORS and Zinc in low-resource settings. Since 2004, the UNICEF/WHO recommendation has been that diarrhoea in children be treated with ORS and Zinc. Nearly two decades on, less that 10% of cases are treated with ORS and Zinc.
All the evidence suggests that co-packaging has the potential to greatly increase the chances of children receiving both ORS and Zinc. Co-packaging is also the most cost-effective way of delivering both ORS and Zinc. All the evidence we have been able to gather shows that all co-packaged products currently available are cheaper than buying ORS and Zinc separately.


Does ColaLife seek to lead an effort to increase global uptake of co-packaged ORS and Zinc?

No. ColaLife is a very small organisation with no employees or physical assets. There are other larger organisations that could more appropriately act as the figureheads and leaders for this activity. However, we are resourced over the next two years to make a considerable contribution to such a collaborative effort. ColaLife has no ambition to lead such an effort. We just want it to happen.


What will ColaLife do next?

ColaLife has already exceeded its life expectancy. With the scale-up in Zambia we had already achieved what we had set out to do. However, we now want to see the globalisation of this effort and similar, larger efforts by others (eg CHAI and BMGF) taken to the next level and make co-packaged ORS and Zinc the ‘go-to’ treatment of diarrhoea in children. We can commit to putting two years of effort into this. The ColaLife trustees have approved a plan to wind up ColaLife at the end of its current funding, most likely by the end of 2023.


The legal stuff

ColaLife is established as a Company Limited by Guarantee (UK not for profit). Our Company number is 06995665.
Our listing at Companies House.

Shortly after establishment in 2008 we were granted charitable status. Our charity number is 1142516.
Our listing at the Charity Commission.

As a charity we are governed by a board of voluntary trustees.
Our current trustees.


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