Sunday January 26, 2020

Mia Farrow Promoting IRC’s Approach to Treating Severe and Moderate Acute Malnutrition

"Once you see a child dying of hunger in a world where it isn't necessary, in a world of abundance ... you have frustration," she said

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Mia Farrow, IRC, Malnutrition
FILE - Three-year-old Fatime Mahamat, suffering from severe malnutrition, cries as she rests in a nutritional health clinic run with the support of UNICEF, in Mao, Chad, Nov. 4, 2012. VOA

Groups of women had traveled for days to find care for their starving children in Chad, blankly staring in exhaustion and with little hope. But other women smiled, relieved to see their children “fattened” by a new and simplified initiative for hunger. Mia Farrow.

In an interview with The Associated Press, actress Mia Farrow recounted the scene during her visit to the Central African nation’s Mangalme area as an envoy for the International Rescue Committee.

“Once you see a child dying of hunger in a world where it isn’t necessary, in a world of abundance … you have frustration,” she said. “When I saw this simple solution … I said yes, there is an answer.”

She is promoting the IRC’s approach to treating severe and moderate acute malnutrition, one that contrasts with the widespread method using two different products administered by two different agencies.

Mia Farrow, IRC, Malnutrition
FILE – Human rights activist Mia Farrow talks with staff from the International Rescue Committee while visiting an internally displaced persons camp in Juba, South Sudan, April 2, 2019. VOA

UNICEF provides a fortified peanut butter treatment to children with severe acute malnutrition, while the World Food Program, another United Nations agency, provides a blended flours treatment to children with moderate acute malnutrition. A child with moderate acute malnutrition could arrive at a facility that only serves severe cases and not receive treatment.

Efficiency, cost

In Chad, about 350,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition. That number could grow as the landlocked Sahel nation faces a growing extremist threat in its Lake Chad region and refugees continue to arrive from neighboring countries. Rapid desertification exacerbates the hunger and poverty.

Chad ranks 186th of 189 countries in the 2018 Human Development Index and has one of the world’s highest levels of hunger, according to the World Food Program. More than 66% of the population of 15.5 million lives in severe poverty.

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The IRC hopes to make treating malnutrition more efficient and less costly. CEO David Miliband has said the new approach could save millions of lives over the next decade since only 20% of some 50 million acutely malnourished children worldwide have access to treatment.

The IRC hopes its pilot programs in Chad and Mali can help inform World Health Organization guidelines on treating malnutrition and allow health workers to deliver the treatments within communities and not just at clinics.

“We don’t have to watch children die,” Farrow said.

‘Promising’ approach

Mia Farrow, IRC, Malnutrition
In an interview with The Associated Press, actress Mia Farrow recounted the scene during her visit to the Central African nation’s Mangalme area as an envoy. Pixabay

World Food Program spokesman Herve Verhoosel said the agency “fully supports testing and building the evidence for simplified approaches such as the one being put forward by IRC. The approach shows promise, and we’re enthusiastic about it as one of the strategies that may help improve treatment of acute malnutrition.”

Malnutrition is a major cause of maternal and child illness and death in Chad, he said. He acknowledged that in remote settings some women and children may walk for hours or days to a clinic only to find treatment for one type of malnutrition available — and could be turned away if they don’t fit the criteria.

“Simplified protocols could provide a promising solution to these issues,” he said. For them to be effective, “we need to ensure that these services are also available in communities, not just in health clinics.”

He noted that some evidence gaps remain on the effectiveness of the approach but said U.N. agencies are working with the IRC to generate needed data.

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The IRC pilot in Chad is being carried out in partnership with Chad’s health ministry, WFP and UNICEF. Nearly 2,000 malnourished children already have been admitted. (VOA)

Next Story

People in LMICs Face Obesity and Undernutrition: Study

Low income countries facing both obesity, malnutrition

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Due to unhealthy lifestyle, people in LMICs face highest risks of obesity as well as malnutrition. Lifetime Stock

Low-and middle-income countries have high levels of overweight and obesity along with undernutrition, say researchers, adding that these two issues have become increasingly connected.

“Our research shows that overweight and obesity levels of at least 20 per cent among adults are found in all low-income countries. Furthermore, the double burden of high levels of both undernutrition and overweight occur primarily in the lowest-income countries — a reality that is driven by the modern food system,” said study lead author Barry M. Popkin from University of North Carolina in US.

“This system has a global reach and is preventing low- and even moderate-income countries and households from consuming safe, affordable and healthy diets in a sustainable way,” Popkin added.

Globally, estimates suggest that almost 2.3 billion children and adults are overweight, and more than 150 million children are stunted.

In low- and middle-income countries, however, these emerging issues overlap in individuals, families and communities.

For the findings, the research team used survey data from low- and middle-income countries in the 1990s and 2010s to estimate which countries faced a double burden of malnutrition, meaning that, in the population, more than 15 per cent of people had wasting, more than 30 per cent were stunted, more than 20 per cent of women had thinness and more than 20 per cent of people were overweight.

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Overweight and obesity levels of at least 20 per cent among adults are found in all low-income countries. Pixabay

The results, published in the journal The Lancet, showed that more than a third of low- and middle-income countries had overlapping forms of malnutrition, 45 of 123 countries in the 1990s and 48 of 126 countries in the 2010s.

The problem was particularly common in sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia, and east Asia and the Pacific, where 29, seven and nine countries were affected, respectively.

In the 2010s, 14 countries with some of the lowest incomes in the world had newly developed a double burden of malnutrition compared with the 1990s, said the study.

However, fewer low- and middle-income countries with the highest incomes, relative to others in that category, were affected.

The authors said this reflects the increasing prevalence of people being overweight in the poorest countries, even as segments of the population still face stunting, wasting and thinness.

“The poorest low- and middle-income countries are seeing a rapid transformation in the way people eat, drink and move at work, home, in transport and in leisure,” Popkin said.

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According to the researchers, the new nutrition reality is driven by changes to the food system, which have increased the global availability of ultra-processed foods that are linked to weight gain while also adversely affecting infant and preschooler diets.

“These changes include disappearing fresh food markets, increasing numbers of supermarkets, and the control of the food chain by supermarkets and global food, catering and agriculture companies in many countries,” Popkin said. (IANS)