Izumi Foundation Helps Malnourished Children in Haiti

By

The Izumi Foundation looks for promising, practical innovations that reduce the burden of disease while also strengthening the ability of communities to keep children and families healthy. Since 2005, the Izumi Foundation has supported Meds & Foods for Kids (MFK) in its work to help malnourished children in Haiti. Rosette, who had heard about the work of MFK, trudged through the road’s muck and mire, carrying her daughter Rose Berlande. Although Rose Berlande is already 3 years old, she does not walk, because her swollen legs and feet (a consequence of severe malnutrition) make it difficult for her to do so. Her lower limbs stand in sharp contrast to her thin, frail arms and torso.

Rosette and Rose Berlande manage to arrive at the clinic just before 8 a.m. Shortly after their arrival, Rose Berlande is admitted as the clinic’s first patient in the Medika Mamba program.

Medika Mamba (“Peanut butter medicine” in Haitian Creole) is a locally manufactured, culturally appropriate Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) used in the treatment of malnutrition. The Izumi Foundation’s support has allowed Meds & Foods for Kids (MFK) to partner with ServeHaiti and the St. Vincent de Paul Health Center to provide a nutritional intervention program that caters to young patients like Rose Berlande, restoring the health of malnourished children and bringing hope to their families and communities.

MFK’s product is remarkable not only in what it achieves for children, but also in how it is made. MFK employs Haitian workers who manufacture Medika Mamba in Haiti, using peanuts grown by Haitian farmers and as many locally available inputs as possible. In this way, supporting MFK in the production of Medika Mamba not only supports children in the short term but supports the development of Haitian industry over the long term, critical to the health and development of the country as a whole.

With so much demand and rampant malnutrition, especially after the devastating earthquake in 2010, MFK faced the challenge of growth. Although the Izumi Foundation had focused generally on renewable short grants that delivered a direct health service, they saw the potential of investing in MFK over a longer period of time and in a broader capacity. With funding from the Izumi Foundation, MFK was able to advance its production machinery to meet international quality assurance standards. This support allowed MFK to pass a USAID Supply Chain Management System (SCMS) audit and gain credibility in the eyes of UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and other large international customers. Without this certification, it risked being put out of business by competition in the neighboring Dominican Republic, where production was easy and cheap. Now, 3 years later, organizations such as UNICEF and Nutriset have partnered with MFK—not only helping the malnourished children but strengthening the local peanut industry.

Together, Izumi, MFK, Nutriset, and UNICEF have created a technological leap forward for local production of RUTF in Haiti. MFK’s advanced machinery and increased capacity should enable the program to produce 10 times as many kilograms of Medika Mamba, treating 10 times as many children who suffer from malnutrition in Haiti. This dramatic advancement will give more mothers in Haiti the hope of a healthy child—a sign promised Rosette when she first entered the clinic with Rose Berlande: “Lasante se lespwa, lespwa se tout bagay. Health is hope, and hope is everything.”