Eradicating Malnutrition with a Magic Pulse “Soyabean”
By Bhami Vora
Bhami Vora is the Head of Health and Nutrition at Fight Hunger Foundation. She is a nutritionist by profession and has done her Master’s in Public Health from University of Melbourne. She has earlier worked with FAO in Bangladesh and with ACF India in New Delhi. At Fight Hunger Foundation, she runs malnutrition prevention and treatment programs in the states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
Situation of malnutrition in India
According to Lancet (2008), maternal and child under nutrition is the underlying cause of 3.5 million deaths globally. It is estimated that every five seconds, a child under 10 dies from hunger and malnutrition related diseases1.
As per the Global Nutrition Report 2016, an estimated 40% of the children suffering from malnutrition in the world are Indian. The Rapid Survey on Children 2015, further estimates that 20 million children in India suffer from acute undernutrition while less than 1% of these children have access to life saving treatment (Fight Hunger Foundation 2016). Every year, 1 million children die in India, due to undernutrition related causes (UNICEF 2016). This is the largest loss of human potential an estimated economic loss in India will be $46 billion by 2030 (Save the Children, 2013).
Lifesaving treatment for children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM)
Severe acute malnutrition in children can be successfully treated by using WHO guidelines which promote the use of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), an energy-dense lipid paste enriched with vitamins and minerals. The typical composition (ingredient % of weight) of RUTF is whole milk powder 30%, sugar 28%, vegetable oil 15.4%, peanut paste 25% and mineral vitamin mix 1.6%.
Despite the evolution of RUTF being a breakthrough for treatment of severe forms of malnutrition, the cost of RUTF is still considered a significant barrier to universally roll-out SAM treatment as implementation of such protocols is too expensive in many highneed countries.
The magic pulse “Soyabean” to fight malnutrition
Created in 2012 in Mumbai, Fight Hunger Foundation is an Indian organization exclusively committed to eradicate child undernutrition. Research on low cost therapeutic products and approaches is one of the core competencies of the organization and has developed partnership with some pioneer institutes like the Washington University to work on such products.
In order to cater to the large number of children suffering from malnutrition, Fight Hunger Foundation with Sion hospital in Mumbai is formulating a low cost soyabean based RUTF. Being one of the least expensive source of high quality protein the pulse is also rich in essential amino acids, such as, arginine and lysine, needed for malnourished children. The soya based RUTF is highly nutritious where peanuts a much expensive ingredient (used in traditional RUTF recipe) is being replaced by defatted soya flour thereby reducing the cost of treatment for malnourished children by two third the initial price without comprising on the nutrition composition. The product is now under laboratory testing and will soon undergo clinical trials and field testing.
The use of a country specific formula not only also has the potential to reduce the cost of the product, but also the use of locally accepted ingredients increases the acceptance for the product resulting in increase in the coverage of community based treatment, therefore improving outcomes for undernourished children. With this research, Fight Hunger Foundation plans to develop and promote the use of low cost products in countries with very high burden of malnourished children along with an advocacy and scale up plan of action for India.
Under-nutrition is defined as the outcome of insufficient food intake and repeated infectious diseases and poor care practices, often due to economic political and socio-cultural factors. It included being underweight for one’s age, too short for one’s age(stunted - chronic under-nutrition), dangerously thin for one’s height (wasted- acute under-nutrition) and deficient in vitamins and minerals (micro-nutrient nutrition).
1 Ziegler J., 2008. Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development: report by the special rapporteur on the right to food. New York: United Nations.