Medika Mamba – Saving Haiti’s Children From Starvation and Malnourishment

A Haitian child is given Nutributter, a supplementary food rich in nutrients.Working in Haiti is one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever done… And rewarding. 19 Months and 19 trips to the country after the earthquake which devastated the country, a hell of a lot hasn’t changed – or is worse. A hell of a lot has changed for the better as well  – much due to the perspicacity of the Haitian people, the hard work of independent charities and churches from other countries, the blood sweat and tears of the relief agencies…

Which I guess defines the “bipolar frustration” felt by many Haitians and AID workers.

The failures in the country include 19 months later, little to no progress has been made in fixing any of the very basic infrastructure systems in the country.  It hits you in the face as soon as you land in the country – the airport is in shambles. The main terminal which suffered severe damage during the earthquake is exactly in the same condition as it was 15 months ago, the Air Traffic Control Tower which collapsed during the earthquake has been replaced by a “temporary tower” – a Winnebago parked in the middle of the airfield…

That is the only way in and out of the country for emergency relief supplies such as medicines and food.

There was supposed to be a major project to correct the basic problems with the airport – it hasn’t happened.

Cholera made it’s reappearance last year killing over 6,500 people. It’s back again this year, spreading into Port au Prince. The country does not have a sewer treatment system, so raw sewage is pumped into the ocean, or in some recently documented cases just dumped right on the ground. Don’t even think about the sanitary conditions in the tent cities where roughly 600,000 Haitians still live, or the rivers where raw sewage is dumped to flow out to the ocean, but which get clogged with millions of plastic bottles causing overflow into entire neighborhoods, despite the frantic efforts of local authorities to clear the debris.

There was supposed to be a new sewer treatment plant – it hasn’t happened.

And that is just the “short list”.

One of the victims of the situation appears to be trash collection. Someone donated dumpsters to collect local trash – but the company which emptied them stopped emptying them (I assume because they ran out of money). So residents now burn the trash in the dumpsters sitting along the streets adding to the already serious air pollution issues (One of the principal killers in Haiti is Tuberculosis, and the average lifespan is only 59).

These issues have to do with the billions of dollars in aid promised by various governmental and international financial agencies – which never got spent to fix the very basic problems in the country. Now – if anyone ever got around to writing a book about why that happened, and continues to happen, parts of it would come out like those international thrillers by a Coyle or Ludnum. The rest like a slow motion disaster movie. The fact of the matter is, both the domestic government under Preval, and the international agencies share the blame. Most people believe corruption is only on the part of the historically corrupt Haitian Government. That’s not entirely true – although the Preval administration was undeniably corrupt to the core – there has been plenty of corruption, bureaucratic incompetence and foot dragging at the international agencies, including by our own US governmental agencies as well. The result has been little progress.

If our conservative friends really gave a damn about government incompetence, malfeasance, corruption, waste, and inability to work together toward a common goal… This would be Herman Cain’s new “bookend” speech. But they don’t – so I expect little to change for the better, regardless of who takes office in 2013. Besides – it’s a black country, and we know damn well where those rank on the hierarchy of conservative concerns.

So I guess, it is uplifting when you hear about something that is working. Here is one, very important case of a treatment that I believe, was initially developed in Africa (Although George Washington Carver could have told them about this 100 years ago), having success in Haiti, and creating an industry.

Thanks for making my day, Meds and Food for Kids!

‘Peanut butter medicine’ giving hope to Haiti’s hungry

 With his ribs showing and his skin practically hanging off him, Pierre Wisny is painfully thin.

The 11-month-old Haitian weighs just 11 pounds, and it’s no surprise that he is severely malnourished.

The same applies for 3-year-old Alcincord Guerviscon, although it’s clear — even without measurements — to see that his growth has been stunted by the same condition. He weighs only 15 pounds.

In most of these cases, the children got this way because of poverty and a lack of access to good food. If they’re not given emergency treatment, they could die or suffer more effects of malnutrition, including reduced brain development.

For staff members at one clinic in northern Haiti, intervention comes in bright green packets: Medika Mamba, which means “peanut butter medicine” in Creole. It’s a ready-to-eat paste packed with nutritious ingredients that — over a period of weeks — gives a jolt to the system and puts children back on track. Made by a U.S.-based nonprofit called Meds and Food for Kids, it’s one of several brands of ready-to-use therapeutic foods.

“You can’t rehabilitate a child who has severe malnutrition with a plate of beans and rice. There’s just no way,” said Thomas Stehl, the nonprofit’s director of operations. “Their stomachs are too small and their nutritional requirements are too great to ever be satisfied in that way. So the quality and the density of food is really important. And that is why ready-to-use therapeutic food and Medika Mamba is such a great answer.” Continue reading

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