A large-scale distribution of milk-based fortified spreads: evidence for a new approach in regions with high burden of acute malnutrition
AffiliationMédecins Sans Frontières, Paris, France; University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland
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AbstractBACKGROUND: There are 146 million underweight children in the developing world, which contribute to up to half of the world's child deaths. In high burden regions for malnutrition, the treatment of individual children is limited by available resources. Here, we evaluate a large-scale distribution of a nutritional supplement on the prevention of wasting. METHODS AND FINDINGS: A new ready-to-use food (RUF) was developed as a diet supplement for children under three. The intervention consisted of six monthly distributions of RUF during the 2007 hunger gap in a district of Maradi region, Niger, for approximately 60,000 children (length: 60-85 cm). At each distribution, all children over 65 cm had their Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) recorded. Admission trends for severe wasting (WFH<70% NCHS) in Maradi, 2002-2005 show an increase every year during the hunger gap. In contrast, in 2007, throughout the period of the distribution, the incidence of severe acute malnutrition (MUAC<110 mm) remained at extremely low levels. Comparison of year-over-year admissions to the therapeutic feeding program shows that the 2007 blanket distribution had essentially the same flattening effect on the seasonal rise in admissions as the 2006 individualized treatment of almost 60,000 children moderately wasted. CONCLUSIONS: These results demonstrate the potential for distribution of fortified spreads to reduce the incidence of severe wasting in large population of children 6-36 months of age. Although further information is needed on the cost-effectiveness of such distributions, these results highlight the importance of re-evaluating current nutritional strategies and international recommendations for high burden areas of childhood malnutrition.
PublisherPublic Library of Science (PLoS)