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Super Nutrition for Malnourished Children

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You could literally save a life by providing nutrition powerful enough to bring a child back from the brink of death.

Child malnutrition rates today remain devastating and are made exponentially worse by rapidly rising food prices around the world. But while malnutrition continues to kill millions of children a year and stunt growth in untold numbers more, there is hope in the form of a recently created "super food" that provides the specific, high-quality nutrition children need to recover, survive, and even thrive.

Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTFs) are credited with cutting in half the malnutrition rate in Sudan's troubled Darfur region, and have been in use for the past several years around the world by organizations like Project Peanut Butter, Doctors Without Borders, and Partners In Health. This peanut/ dairy/ vitamin/ mineral paste requires no preparation -- no mixing with clean water, which can be difficult to find -- and no special supervision, making it easy to use. RUTFs are difficult to overeat, and they keep even after opening; when unopened, they keep for months or even years. RUTFs offer a 90% - 95% recovery rate for severely malnourished children and allow them to recover at home -- a vast improvement over milk-based formulas of the recent past that offered dismal recovery rates of 25% - 40% and that required hospitalization.

RUTFs help with rapid weight gain, which can mean the difference between life and death for a young child. The high-calorie, fortified peanut butter-like paste contains a balance of lipids, sugar, and protein (macronutrients), vitamins, minerals (micronutrients) and calories. Peanuts contain mono-unsaturated fats, which are easy to digest, and are rich in zinc and protein, which are both good for the immune system. Peanuts are also a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps to convert food into energy.

In 2007, RUTFs and the community-based treatment protocols established by Dr. Mark Manary and Project Peanut Butter were commended as the most effective method by which to treat severely malnourished children by the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF.

One child's story illustrates the power of this "Super Nutrition." Malipho Ramahapa weighed only 11.5 pounds in October 2007, when he was brought to the clinic at Nohana, Lesotho at the age of 19 months. Malipho was suffering from a daunting array of symptoms: a very high fever, oral thrush (a fungal infection in his mouth), chronic diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite and weight loss. An examination confirmed the symptoms and a diagnosis of both severe malnutrition (marasmus) and pulmonary tuberculosis. Results of an HIV test revealed that he was also suffering from advanced HIV progressing to AIDS.

Just two months after starting treatment and a diet of RUTF, Malipho was barely recognizable. Gone was the child so weak and wasted that he could barely sit up, replaced by a robust boy with an engaged look and a ready smile.

Despite the proven effectiveness of RUTFs, they are currently only available to a tiny fraction of the severely malnourished children who need them.

You can help. This Gift That Gives More™ funds one month of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (three meals a day) for a severely malnourished child in Haiti, Rwanda, Malawi, or Lesotho, through Partners In Health.


For its work in Haiti, Partners In Health's agriculture program grows the peanuts itself, helping the local economy. However, the price of the powdered milk has doubled over the past year due to increasing world food and fuel prices, meaning the program is in need of funds to continue to expand its work.

PIH currently partners with other organizations to procure RUTF at its other locations. For example, in Malawi PIH works with Project Peanut Butter, which makes RUTF available at cost to other NGOs to help more children than PPB could reach alone.

Partners In Health (PIH) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation whose mission is to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. Through service, training, advocacy, and research, and by establishing long-term relationships with sister organizations, PIH strives to achieve two overarching goals: to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them and to serve as an antidote to despair.


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