When Simon Berry was working as an aid worker in the remote corners of north-east Zambia more than 20 years ago, he hit upon a great idea. "One-in-five children die in Africa from causes such as diarrhoea," says Berry. "I realised that wherever I pitched up I could buy a Coca-Cola. So I thought why don't we use this fantastic distribution network to get rehydration salts to these children?" But at the time his idea fell on deaf ears. "The only form of communication I had back then was a telex machine, and it didn't get me very far."
Last May, when Gordon Brown's Business Call to Action asked big companies to help fight poverty in Africa and Asia, Berry rekindled the idea while online networking sites gave him new ways to communicate. A month later, the BBC became involved which, along with public support, initiated a statement from Coca-Cola to say it was happy to talk to Berry.
While the drinks giant will be helping to save children's lives, Berry believes the company would, in turn, benefit from an improved reputation. "People would see Coca-Cola in a new light," he says.
He is in talks with the multinational and hopes that trials will take place soon. For now, his campaign is focusing on distribution, but there will be other issues to work out, such as who will circulate the medicine once it reaches its destination and which drugs should be made available. "Whatever is distributed should be determined locally, by people on the ground," says Berry.
He has devised an innovative way of packaging the salts—inside a pod—which makes good use of space by fitting in between the necks of the crated Coca-Cola bottles.
Visit www.colalife.org for more information