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Fighting Starvation Through Science

alt="child fighting starvation pictured with mother and doctor"
MATOPE, MALAWI: Jennifer Andrea, 27, brings her daughter Stella Alfred, 2, to the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition clinic at Matope Health Centre. They walked from Kanono Village (about 10 km away) and are seen by Jessie Chizumo, a community member. Matope Health Centre serves 11 villages.

The Starvation Cycle

Worldwide, 6 million children under the age of 5 die every year, and starvation is a direct or indirect cause of death in more than half of those cases. The brutal suffering caused by starvation, so often combined with other diseases, inflicts children everywhere in situations of extreme poverty. The cycle is vicious. Chronic starvation weakens the immune system, much like AIDS does, leaving young children to die of severe pneumonia, infections, or otherwise treatable illnesses. partners with Partners in Health (PIH) to provide children with the food they need to fight malnutrition. Children receive Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTFs), high-calorie, fortified peanut butter-like paste containing a balance of lipids, sugar, and protein (macronutrients), vitamins, minerals (micronutrients), and calories. RUTFs require no preparation, are difficult to overeat, and they keep months or even years after opening. RUTFs offer a 90% – 95% recovery rate for severely malnourished children and allow them to recover at home.

YOUR donations are helping starving children receive these RUTFs. Children like Lovenyou Pierre:

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Lovenyou Pierre, a 17-month-old malnutrition patient, peeks from behind his mother’s legs outside his home in Boucan Carré, Haiti.

Severe Malnutrition

Lovenyou visited the Boucan Carré clinic in Haiti and was diagnosed with severe malnutrition. He was just past his first birthday and weighed 17 pounds—well below the normal growth rate for boys his age, according to the World Health Organization—and measured a below-average 29 ½ inches. Shortly after that first visit to the clinic, Lovenyou took a turn for the worse. He spiked a fever, had diarrhea, wasn’t eating, and—scariest of all—kept losing consciousness.

Panicked, his mother scrounged for the money to pay a driver to take her and Lovenyou to University Hospital in Mirebalais, a 30-minute motorcycle drive from their home. PIH staff admitted Lovenyou immediately, hooked him up to an IV, and performed a battery of tests to ensure the toddler wasn’t suffering something in addition to starvation. (Some children’s cases become infinitely more complicated when staff discovers they also test positive for HIV or tuberculosis.) Tests showed nothing alarming but did confirm he was dehydrated and in dire need of additional nutrients.

The Comback Kid

Eight days later, Lovenyou was healthy enough to return home. His mother began taking him regularly to the clinic in Boucan Carré. When she couldn’t afford the motorcycle ride, they walked. By foot, and while carrying a sick child, it took her nearly two hours, one way. Once there, PIH nurses weighed Lovenyou and provided him with a supply of Nourimanba, the nutrient-rich peanut paste PIH produces and distributes to its malnutrition clinics.

His mother religiously fed Nourimanba to Lovenyou three times a day, and his appetite returned. She talked about the experience in a shy, quiet tone, while her son squirmed in her arms. He eventually wiggled free and shimmied to the ground to play with the other children.