Saving Kids from a Nutritional Cliff

By Mark Moore

Have you ever noticed how flimsy our modern devices are? Your typical smartphone can perform an endless array of tasks and store large quantities of information, but all of this “intelligence” can disappear with just one clumsy move. If you place it on the edge of a table and accidentally knock it off, all of that data can disappear with a disheartening screen-shatter. Though an abrupt loss of your smartphone may be inconvenient, it’s hardly a life-or -death matter.

Unfortunately, for nearly 70% of children in South Sudan and Chad, everyday life is a precarious struggle. Many live right on the edge.   These children are born hungry, to hungry mothers and live their entire lives dangerously close to a cliff of death.  If a wind blows or something bumps the table, sometimes a lot and sometimes just a may be enough to send the kids (just like the phone) right off the edge and to death.  These "winds" in Sudan come in the form of Malaria, a sibling's sickness, a village water well going dry, political insurrection, a parent getting AIDS, unsustainable agricultural practices, an outbreak of Tuberculosis, or the lack of funding for a community health worker. They are varied, hard to predict, and in a sad way, too often a normal part of life.

Now imagine that, even if you don't have the power to control the varied and unpredictable "winds" or bumps of the table, you have the ability to grab those children living precariously on the edge and put them in the middle of the table.  One solution is to simply supply the child on the edge with a packet of special peanut butter called Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) three times a day for six weeks, Even though the table will still get bumped and the winds will continue to blow, this one action means that 94% of those kids will never fall off the edge!  By moving the children away from the cliff of malnutrition and into a nutritionally stable state, you save their lives.  Born hungry to hungry mothers, these children now experience "normal" nutrition long enough to get ahead of the curve.  Though they might still get blown around a bit by other persisting winds (Malaria, political unrest, and poor governance), the kids will not die. The gift of nutritional stability makes all of the difference.

 Partnerships such as the one between Food For Famine Society of Canada, World Vision CA and MANA Nutrition are doing this today in Malawi and Chad.  Food for Famine provides the resources for the ingredients, MANA makes the RUTF, and World Vision coordinates the distribution to the children who need it. Though fortified foods like RUTF have tremendous potential, it is not the answer for all hungry kids.  Other valuable partners in the World Food Day Network are working to fix the other “winds” of food insecurity.  Issues of sustainability, food systems, nutrition and food security are all key to stopping children from wandering near the cliff of death. But for those who already live there or were born there, RUTF is a great tool.



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