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Malnutrition is a serious problem that affects the lives of children in Benin as well as all over the world. Malnutrition kills TWICE as many children than AIDS, TB, and Malaria Combined. According to the World Health Organization, right now around 178 million children are malnourished across the globe. In Benin, about 3 out of every 10 children under five years old are underweight.

Malnutrition occurs when a child does not receive adequate food that provides the essential macro-nutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) and micro-nutrients (vitamins & minerals) the body needs to grow and be healthy. Often this begins when a child is just a few years old, after he or she finishes the breastfeeding stage. Most commonly, this occurs in countries like Benin where much of the population are subsistence farmers who are vulnerable to drought, famine, or other scenarios that might threaten their ability to grow good for their families.


The nutritional deficiency that can result from this has dire effects on small children – it will weaken a child’s immune system which increases the risk of diseases such as malaria, respiratory infections, diarrhea related diseases, malaria, measles, and HIV/AIDS. Malnutrition also affects a child’s intellectual development, which limits his or her potential in school.

So, children with malnutrition not only grow smaller but are also susceptible to diseases that can threaten their lives and cause other irreversible damage. Worldwide, a child dies every 6 seconds because of malnutrition and it is estimated that undernourishment contributes from one-third to one-half of all child deaths.

The most dangerous form of child malnutrition is called severe, acute malnutrition (SAM), which. 20 million children under the age of 5 suffer from this disease SAM, and year about 1 million children die because of it. Only 3% of the 20 million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition each year receive the treatment they need.



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In Benin’s northeastern regions, levels of SAM in children have been estimated as high as 35%.  Severely malnourished children sometimes look extremely skinny, a condition known as marasmus. Other severely malnourished children experience a painful buildup of fluid under the skin known as kwashiorkor or edema (literally, swelling).

However, a revolutionary food product called Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) can help save and improve the lives of children with severe, acute malnutrition.This food, a blend of commonly encountered food ingredients (peanut butter, sugar, and milk powder) mixed with special ingredients (a custom blend of vitamins and minerals) can be given to children who suffer from SAM. About 90% of children who receive this therapy can recover in 12 weeks or less, gaining the weight and capacity to fight disease that they lacked. Children who recover are also less likely to become malnourished again, and can lead healthy lives.


Further reading: http://www.unicefusa.org/news/releases/unicef-children-malnutrition.html