Monday, August 07, 2006

Distribution of Resources Curing Hunger and Malnutrition One Spoonful at a time

One area in bioethics that does not get enough attention is equitable distribution of resources -- maybe it is because it's bound up in politics, maybe because of human greed, but whatever the reason, it is heartening to see a story like this one:

Swollen bellies, orange hair, listlessness and dull eyes — these are the traits of child malnutrition in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and where roughly one of every three children is chronically malnourished.

To try to change that statistic, Patricia A. Wolff, M.D., associate clinical professor of pediatrics. at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, founded Meds & Food for Kids (MFK) in 2004, after she saw that medications and small amounts of the local staples rice, beans and corn weren't enough to nourish children back to health.

MFK works to combat childhood malnutrition and related diseases in northern coastal Cap Haitien, Haiti's second-largest city, by giving Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) to malnourished children between 6 months and 5 years old. The mixture, known to Haitians as "Medika Mamba," or peanut-butter medicine, is a nutrient-rich mixture of peanuts, sugar, oil, vitamins, minerals and powdered milk. It is distributed in plastic containers for families to feed their children at home and can be stored for several months.

Children start to show visible signs of improvement about 1-2 weeks after receiving the peanut-butter mixture, becoming more active and growing new black hair. One course of the six-week treatment, which can be enough to renourish the child, costs under US$100.

For the rest of the article click here.

(the next step is to make sure that the women giving birth are adequately nourished!)

(Image courtesy of Washington University School of Medicine)

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