How to save the lives of 20,000 malnourished children each day.

Despite what most people think, the 14 million Third World children who die of malnutrition each year do not succumb simply to lack of food. The complications of a weakened body are many. What actually kills more children than anything else—fully 5 million a year—is dehydration brought on by diarrheal infection. It’s a common ailment in the large areas of the world lacking proper sanitation and personal hygiene. The fact that primitive wisdom calls for withholding food and water from those suffering diarrhea only compounds the problem.

The health hazards of bodily dehydration are far from being solved. But, thanks in part to a discovery that a leading British medical journal has called “potentially the most important medical advance of the century,” the prospect of greatly limiting death caused by diarrhea is no longer an impossible dream. The discovery is oral rehydration therapy (ORT), a process that not only replaces salt and water in children (and adults) who are fighting diarrhea, but actually helps to cure the victim. The “therapy” consists of drinking a very simple solution of water, sugar, and salt. The ultimate cure for diarrhea lies in modernized sanitation systems and improved personal hygiene. But until that goal can be reached, experts believe ORT will definitely limit deaths and alleviate suffering.

Although the benefits of ORT have been known for more than a decade, the idea of putting it to work has only recently gained momentum, according to Roger Goodal of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). UNICEF said in its annual “State of the World’s Children” report in December that ORT was the key element in a plan that could save the lives of 20,000 children a day.

For decades it has been known that simple replacement of bodily salt and fluids could prevent death from dehydration. But before 1971, the only known way the body could absorb the needed material was intravenously. Then it was discovered that if sugar were taken with the oral salt solution, absorption through the small intestine would increase by 2,500 percent. Another bonus: because of the simplicity, mothers now have the chance to play an important role in the recovery of their children.

The first wide use of oral rehydration therapy was among refugees from the 1971 India-Pakistan War, where ORT was credited with having dropped the refugee mortality rate of cholera and other diarrheal diseases from 30 percent to 1 percent. Since then, controlled studies have been done in several countries, each concluding that ORT had accounted for major reductions in diarrhea-related deaths. The research that produced the best-documented studies was conducted at the International Center for Diarrheal Diseases Research, located in Bangladesh. In their village and urban field study centers, officials to monitor ORT’S impact.

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UNICEF can produce ORT packets for apiece. Currently it sends out 24 million packets a year while it estimates that more than 600 million are needed. Fortunately, however, nobody needs a UNICEF packet to reap the benefits of oral rehydration therapy.

The ORT solution is simple: a teaspoon of salt and eight teaspoons of sugar in a liter of water. According to physician Howard Searle, medical director of the Wheaton, Illinois-based MAP International (Medical Assistance Programs), “in our days of increasingly sophisticated medicine, oral rehydration therapy is an extremely simple process that has a phenomenal impact on saving lives.” Searle believes that ORT can be most widely used if it is taught to mothers. Today mothers from across the world are learning to prepare and use the ORT solution for treating simple diarrhea. Even in the United States people are slowly recognizing its merits.

According to Jeannie Thiessen, a nurse and the director for community health resources at MAP, anyone can use it. She says, “Research shows that ORT is more effective than a variety of medicines many take for diarrhea. We encourage the use of ORT, because if we show it is used in the United States, it is easier to encourage our Third World friends to use it.” Many mission groups, private relief organizations, and foreign governments have combined their resources in an attempt to make ORT available. One of MAP International’s functions is to spread the word at its workshops and through its literature. In addition to teaching the method itself, MAP provides illustrations of how the message can be contextualized. In western Africa, for example, ORT is taught through storytelling. In some parts of the world, beer or soda bottles are used as liter containers. In Bangladesh, women know what is meant by a “three-finger pinch of salt and two four-finger scoops of sugar.”

UNICEF’S Goodal believes that ORT will play an important part in the attempt to reach the goal set by UNICEF and the World Health Organization in 1978. That goal is “health for all by the year 2000.” Goodal says, “The goal is reachable, but it won’t be reached without a concerted effort on the part of everyone who wants to bring it about.”

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Campaign Begins Against Irs Decision On Clergy Taxes

A campaign is under way to reverse an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ruling that will mean less income for clergymen who own their homes. A Houston lawyer who is helping to organize the campaign believes pastors will lose, on the average, $1,500 to $2,000 a year in spendable income when the tax change takes effect in July.

The ruling prevents pastors from taking mortage interest as a tax deduction, if they already take the customary housing-allowance exclusion permitted for ministers. It is this “double benefit” that the IRS wants to prevent.

Michael Riddle, a Houston lawyer, contends the IRS overstepped its legal authority in making the change. He argues that only Congress has authority to change tax laws. An IRS spokesman said, however, that the ruling does not change a law, only an interpretation of a law. The spokesman said the change corrects a misinterpretation made in a 1962 ruling, which permitted the double benefit. A minister’s housing allowance is income that is excluded from taxes. The IRS code does not permit nontaxable income to be used for a tax deduction elsewhere on the tax return. That is why the IRS is within its bounds in correcting the double benefit for clergy, the spokesman said.

Ministers who pay mortgages, and whose actual housing costs exceed the housing allowance provided them by their congregation, may still deduct a portion of the excess, IRS publication no. 525 deals with taxable and nontaxable income and will explain the change when the pamphlet is updated for 1983 tax returns. The new ruling on clergy income does not apply to 1982 income.

Attorney Riddle believes the new policy is inconsistent with congressional intent to ease the financial burden on people who work for the common good. “In a time when nonprofit organizations are struggling to continue to help society, it seems incomprehensible that such an enormous change in policy will benefit the general public,” he said. Riddle speculates that by its action, the IRS is actually fishing for public opinion, and he urges immediate action. “We have until July to let our congressmen know that we object to what the IRS has done,” he said. Donald Gardner, a former missionary and pastor and now president of Partners for Christian Education, a resource center in Houston for schools connected with the Churches of Christ, is trying to coordinate what he hopes will be a massive national campaign to make congressmen aware of how church-goers feel about the issue.

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North American Scene

An illegal, third-trimester abortion on a 12-year-old has resulted in the dismissal of a Florida physician. Following the abortion, the girl was taken to South Miami Hospital where a hysterectomy and a colostomy were required to stem bleeding and save her life. The state Board of Medical Examiners voted unanimously to revoke the license of Edgar Gonzalez. The Department of Professional Regulations charged Gonzalez with fraud, illegally terminating a pregnancy, and “the killing of an unborn child by injury to his mother.”

Six presbyteries of the Southern Presbyterian church (Presbyterian Church in the United States) voted to rejoin their counterparts in the North (United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.), clearing the way for a formal vote in June, which could end a 122-year schism started by the Civil War. Three-fourths of the southern church’s presbyteries had to assent, and the six presbyteries that voted in late February brought the number to the necessary 48. Eight presbyteries have voted no. The northern branch of the church has already agreed to the merger.

A new report on the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis says that American Jews did not object strenuously because they were slow to believe such an atrocity actually was occurring, and because the American Jewish community during World War II had too little wealth and influence to mount a strong condemnation. These are the interim conclusions of the American Jewish Commission on the Holocaust, chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg. An earlier interim report by the privately funded organization was more critical of American Jewish response to the Holocaust. The commission’s final report will be finished next year.

Robert Schuller is the most-watched television minister in the nation, according to Arbitron figures on the major syndicated religious programs. The Arbitron survey puts Schuller’s audience at 2,667,000, barely edging out second-place Jimmy Swaggart with 2,653,000 viewers. Rounding out the top five are Oral Roberts, Rex Humbard, and Jerry Falwell, in that order.

A Gallup survey has revealed that poor people gave far more money proportionately to churches and charitable organizations in 1981 than did the rich. The survey found that households whose earnings ranged between $50,000 and $100,000 gave between 1 and 2 percent, whereas families who earned less than $5,000 gave nearly 5 percent of their income to churches and charities.

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The sexual therapy programs offered by the Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota are under fire from Minnesota Lutherans who believe the workshops are pornographic. David Barnhart, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Minnehaha Falls, says that a 16-hour workshop of the service constitutes a “journey to the pits of hell and degradation.” Barnhart alleges that films shown to families at the workshop routinely depict deviant sexual behavior.

The charismatic movement within the Episcopal church, recently renamed Episcopal Renewal Ministries, is gaining acceptance. A recent Gallup poll estimated that some 18 percent of the nation’s 2.7 million Episcopalians are charismatic. The movement’s national coordinator, Ohio rector Charles Irish, said the change reflects a more mature outlook by Episcopal charismatics, as well as the church’s greater openness in a time of falling numbers.

The 1.75-million-member United Church of Christ and the 1.2-million-member Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are talking about uniting. Recently a joint steering committee of the churches proposed that their central assemblies vote on the matter in 1985. If the churches like the idea, the union will be accomplished gradually through shared activities and joint theological inquiries.

Plans for “Custer’s Revenge,” a video arcade game featuring a naked male ravishing an Indian woman, have been dropped by its national distributor in Canoga Park, California. The Episcopal church council last year passed a resolution condemning the game as “prurient, lascivious, and pornographic.” The council urged pressure from church groups. A spokesman for the distributing company said the game symbolized rape and rascism “in the eyes of too many people.”

“My personal feeling is that the painting is miraculous. I don’t think anyone will ever explain it.” So said Florida scientist Philip Callahan after an extensive investigation into the origin of the famous 350-year-old painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a painting many Catholics believe to be of divine origin. Using infrared film, Callahan took 40 photographs of the painting and reported that he could not find any semblance of brush or spatula strokes. “There’s no sizing under it,” he said. “It’s not done in oils; it’s not done in watercolor. I don’t know what it is.” Unlike a colorful border later painted around the Virgin, the painting itself has neither cracked nor aged over the years. The famed shrine is located in Mexico City.

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