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Why does ready-to-use food work?
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Experience by different organizations, including MSF, has shown that a very successful way to deliver essential nutrients to malnourished children is with ready-to-use foods (RUFs). This is an effective treatment because each packet delivers 500 calories in the form of a dense nutrient spread that contains fortified milk powder and delivers the 40 essential nutrients that a malnourished child needs to reverse nutrient deficiencies and gain weight.

Further, RUFs are simple to use in resource-limited settings as an efficient and safe way to provide milk to young children: they contain no water and are thus resistant to bacterial contamination, they come in individually-wrapped airtight foil packets and have a long shelf life; they don't require preparation and are easy to transport and use in hot climates.

Most critically, the vast majority of malnourished children can take this treatment at home, under the supervision of their mother or caregiver, instead of in hospital. This allows programs to reach many more children, while at the same time minimizing the risk of contracting an infection in hospital.7

Malnutrition must be addressed before it reaches a life-threatening stage. The quality of complementary foods provided to children after six months of age in resource-limited settings requires reexamining. If any of the 40 essential nutrients are deficient in a young child's diet, the body's defenses are weakened and the likelihood of falling seriously ill from a minor infection increases.

(MSF via China.org.cn December 2, 2008)

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