RUTF Curbs Malnutrition and Saves Children Lives
UNICEF works on scaling up early detection and treatment for child malnutrition through the provision Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food
Malnutrition in Yemen is one of the first causes of child mortality with approximately 2.2 million children under the age of five suffering from acute malnutrition. Of these, more than half a million suffer from severe acute malnutrition and are struggling to survive. In partnership with USAID and its Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), UNICEF works on scaling up early detection and treatment for child malnutrition through the provision Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF).
“Ready-to-use therapeutic food has proven very effective in addressing severe acute malnutrition in children because it contains a specific balance of nutrients.”
Radwan Haykal, a nutrition supervisor.
Radwan Haykal is a nutrition supervisor at a health center in Al-khatabiah, a rural area in Tur Al-bahah, Lahj. He receives dozens of mothers who bring their children to the health center where he checks their weight, monitors their growth, and gives them the necessary support. “The center receives around 45 cases every month, of which one to three children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM). It also receives 15 cases of moderate acute malnutrition every month,” he says.
In Al-khatabiah, 20 per cent of children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition while 40 per cent have moderate acute malnutrition. “Most of the children who come to the center are under the age of five, and we do the check-up before deciding on the necessary treatment. Children who have severe acute malnutrition receive RUTF, and we follow up on them until they recover,” Radwan explains.
Treatment of Malnutrition at home
RUTF - a paste made of peanuts, sugar, milk powder, oil, vitamins, and minerals - is palatable, soft, and energy-rich food that provides ample nutrients for malnourished children to help them recover in their own homes and communities rather than in a health facility. “Ready-to-use therapeutic food has proven very effective in addressing severe acute malnutrition in children because it contains a specific balance of nutrients necessary for children growth and weight gain,” explains Radwan.
“I am so happy that my daughter has a healthy body weight”
Soria, a mother
“I brought my daughter in for screening, and they ended up treating her for malnutrition. She gets 15 packages of RUTF, enough to last a week, and I then bring her back to the center for check-ups,” says Soria, 30, a mother of five. “I have four other children, and I always bring them to this center for routine vaccinations and medical treatments. I am so happy that my daughter now has a healthy body weight and gets a proper diet,” she adds.
Risk of malnutrition
Most children in Yemeni villages are threatened by malnutrition and other diseases, and they often struggle to recover. UNICEF, with partners, has been providing life-saving help for these children.
Fortunately, Ishraq was able to bring her son to the UNICEF-supported Al-Khatabiah Health Center because it is only a ten-minute walk from their home. “The screening showed that my son has malnutrition, so doctors decided to treat him using RUFT. Now, I have to bring him to the health center after one week for a check-up,” she adds. “I also bring my other children to this center for screenings and to get the necessary medications to avoid any malnutrition-related risks and complications.”
Raising parents’ awareness
adwan Haykal, the nutrition supervisor, also educates parents on the importance of children hygiene and urges them to bring their children for malnutrition screening even if they look healthy. “Parents feel so happy when they see their children recover after receiving the RUFT provided by UNICEF,” he notes.
Thanks to USAID/BHA, UNICEF is able to provide lifesaving assistance to children suffering from malnutrition in Yemen.