Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ready to Use Food

According to Susan Shepherd of Doctors Without Borders, this is what malnutritioned children need:

For years, it has been difficult to deliver the nutrient value of milk in communities in Africa and Asia that do not produce or have the resources to buy milk. Without refrigeration and clean water, powdered milk and baby formula are prone to bacterial contamination and cause more harm than good.

Ten years ago, André Briend, a French scientist, devised a paste of powdered milk, ground peanuts, oil, sugar, vitamins and minerals that solves the problems of preparation, storage and contamination because it is prepared without water. The paste, known as ready-to-use food, can be made locally; children can eat it directly from individual foil packets. More important, most children can be treated at home, rather than being hospitalized. This vastly increases the number of children who can be reached. In Niger, I saw how ready-to-use food enabled thousands to recover from malnutrition.

In 2006, my colleagues at Doctors Without Borders and I treated more than 150,000 malnourished children worldwide — in Niger, more than 9 out of 10 recovered. But these numbers are a small fraction of those in need. Under United Nations and United States guidelines, only 3 percent of the world’s 20 million malnourished children — those with the severest forms of malnutrition and the highest risk of death — have access to ready-to-use food.

It makes me wonder how this compares to what we are preparing at Feed My Starving Children, where we occasionally volunteer.

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