Battling Malnutrition with Therapeutic Food Program

Recognizing the high incidence of malnutrition in Lao PDR, administrators at LFHC are initiating a malnutrition care program that they hope will dramatically reduce the need to hospitalize children for long periods to treat the condition.

LFHC doctors and nutritionists have begun to treat malnourished children with eeZeePaste, a ready-to-eat therapeutic food that has been endorsed by UNICEF. The product contains a mixture of peanuts, milk powder, oil and vitamins – everything a child needs to recover from malnutrition.

LFHC has purchased a two-year supply of eeZeePaste.

Acute malnutrition is attributed to about half of all childhood deaths worldwide. In Laos, acute malnutrition rates are poorly reported but are believed to be between 5 percent and 9 percent. Chronic malnutrition rates can be as high as 50 percent in some provinces.

Until now, children suffering acute malnutrition required extended hospital stays, sometimes for months, to be treated with fortified milk. For many families, that wasn’t an option because they needed to return home to tend farms and care for their other children. Malnutrition patients removed too soon from the hospital risked death from such childhood diseases as diarrhea and pneumonia. They also faced lifetime consequences of stunted physical growth and reduced intellectual capacity.

The hospital’s new malnutrition care program will enable families to treat their children at home. If a malnourished child passes an “appetite test,” described by UNICEF as the child’s ability to eat the paste, the patient will be discharged and sent home with a two-week supply of eeZeePaste packets. Most malnourished children recover in 4-8 weeks by eating two or three packets of eeZeePaste a day.

LFHC administrators say they plan to grow the program by collaborating with other groups in Luang Prabang Province, including the Swiss Red Cross, which is already conducting home-visits of children being treated in the program. The Red Cross is also screening children for malnutrition in remote villages for treatment at LFHC if necessary.

The Lao government is rolling out community-based malnutrition programs using eeZeePaste throughout the country. LFHC pledges to support the government’s efforts be providing training and mentorship opportunities.