Monsanto Fund Helps Africare Address Malnutrition in Kenya
Turkana County, Kenya is in the throes of a critical food emergency. Record malnutrition rates, erratic climate and a disruption of traditional food sources have led the World Health Organization to designate the area as an Acute Food and Livelihood Crisis. But, thanks to a grant from the Monsanto Fund, Africare will soon start helping pregnant women, new mothers, infants and young children live healthier lives by increasing access to nutritious foods and nutrition education.
The Improved Approach to Community-based Nutrition in Turkana (IMPACT) Project aligns the Monsanto Fund’s Food and Nutrition strategy and its commitment to addressing malnutrition and alleviating hunger. To read the full press release click here
Every year 750,000 children die from diarrheal disease. This means in Malawi, nearly one out of every five children will not live to see their fifth birthday. What compounds the tragedy is that these diseases are preventable and treatable.
Most diarrheal disease-related deaths are due to dehydration. Since 1978, there has been a standard Oral Rehydration Solution or “ORS” – a mixture of clean water, salt, and sugar to replace fluids and electrolytes. This mixture is safe, effective, and inexpensive, and it can be administered quickly and easily with no special training.
So, why are so many children still dying? It may be because mothers cannot get their children to drink ORS, because it tastes very salty, describing it as “drinking the ocean in glass.” Many sick children reject the life-saving drink, too young to understand the fatal consequences.
Africare and the University of Malawi have teamed up to find a solution. Through the DRINK MALAWI Project at The Institute for Child Wellness in Africa, and with support from the Jackson Kemper Foundation, TICWA investigators are assessing a fortified new formula* that is more pleasant-tasting and therefore likely to save more children. The unique balance of salts and sugars with fast-absorbing citrate gives it a pleasant taste. Through DRINK MALAWI, we believe that Africare and TICWA are on the brink of revolutionizing dehydration treatment and saving hundreds of thousands of children from a cruel, preventable death.
*In partnership with the DripDrop Foundation
Millions of children in Africa go hungry every year. These children suffer during the formative years of their physical and mental development. Tragically, when a child’s body and mind are denied essential nourishment, they can face many consequences, from stunting to decreased IQ and learning challenges to death.
Health workers and researchers who have watched children suffer from life-threatening malnutrition, specifically severe acute malnutrition (SAM), have armed themselves with emergency treatment tools. One such tool is Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food. RUTF, as it is referred to, revolutionized the treatment of SAM for children in Africa a decade ago, saving an estimated 25 million lives to date. Its widespread use doubled recovery rates from 45% to 90% for what often was a terminal condition in small African countries like Malawi. When RUTF was developed, the emphasis was on reducing deaths and creating a food with a stable shelf life that promoted recovery and could be used at home. RUTF was made from locally available crops – peanuts, palm oil, and soybeans. Today, 3 million children with SAM are treated with RUTF annually.
While RUTF has proven effective in improving children’s physical recovery, recently the same Malawian investigators who developed RUTF believe that the current standard formula is inadequate to stimulate brain recovery.
Africare is working in partnership with Project Peanut Butter, Washington University, Cornell University, University of Texas, and the University of Malawi at The Institute for Child Wellness in Africa to test a new RUTF formula that can support physical growth and provide the fatty acids necessary for brain development. The clinical trial, funded by Unorthodox Philanthropy, Open Society, and Washington University, is testing a slight adjustment in the formula, using newly-available non-GMO high-oleic peanuts. The findings of this study could change the management of malnutrition around the world to emphasize mental development, as well as physical recovery, and create a new global protocol –protecting children’s bodies and minds from the life-long repercussions of malnutrition.
Africare and Merck & Co., Inc.* collaborated this year to continue our commitment to building bright, vibrant futures for Africa’s children.
Through the MSD Fellowship for Global Health, three Merck employees spent three months in Malawi with Africare to focus on the development of a five-year strategic plan for The Institute for Child Wellness in Africa (TICWA). With expertise in strategic planning, clinical research, and communication & stakeholder engagement, the Merck Fellows developed a clear roadmap to accelerate TICWA’s success.
“After speaking to over fifty officials from local Ministries, academic institutions, NGOs, and the funder community, we were heartened to learn that the experts that live and breathe in this space see a tangible, palpable need for TICWA to fill in a large gap in global efforts to advance child development and wellness in resource-limited settings. Africare, through TICWA, is uniquely positioned to drive important translational research to improve child wellness in Malawi and throughout Africa”. – David Hauben, Merck Fellow.
Thanks to Merck, Africare has a stronger strategic plan to ensure that TICWA is well positioned to advance its mission to keep children well and help them thrive. Our heartfelt thanks go out to Merck Fellows Shobhna Gopal-Truter, David Hauben, and Susie Wood for their invaluable contributions in Malawi.
* Known as MSD outside U.S. and Canada
Africare Tanzania’s Mwanzo Bora Nutrition Program participated in “White Ribbon Day” organized by the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood in Tanzania. The day marked the launch of the “Zero Tolerance to Maternal Deaths” campaign.
The Mwanzo Bora team participated in the exhibition by providing materials on the nutrition program, its goals and objectives of reducing maternal anemia (for women of reproductive age) through the Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) kits, and how the program measures anemia via non-invasive mobile technology. The Africare Tanzania team had the pleasure of presenting to the guest of honor, The Vice President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu, about the Mwanzo Bora Nutrition Program.
Article written by Aliza Moorji-Hasham, Communications Specialist for the Mwanzo Bora Nutrition Project.
Since the inception of the Africare Tanzania’s Mwanzo Bora Nutrition Program, the Masai residing in the Mesera Village in the Manyara region are adopting healthier nutrition practices, particularly for the well-being of their pregnant women and children in their tribe.
Do you remember your reaction when you learned a phone could access the internet or take pictures? Well, Africare/Tanzania is now researching if mobile phones can perform instant blood tests.
Hadija Ramiya is a young mother living in Towero, one of a number of small villages dotting the hills of Tanzania’s Morogoro Region.