Malaria, Malnutrition and Micronutrients
AED, my “new” company (in quotes because after 10 months I guess I’m not quite so new anymore), seems to like me. At least the folks in Washington have a lot of respect for my work – or so I’m told. That’s nice. I’m still working on warming to them. Pole pole (slowly, slowly) it seems to be getting better. I’m hoping that by the time I reach my one year anniversary I’ll be feeling good in my new corporate skin.
One of the things that attracted me to this project was that it also worked in the areas of child survival and malaria – two things I knew little about – but technical areas that could come in handy someday down the road in the event that they ever find a cure for HIV.
OK… I’m not holding my breath for a cure for HIV. I imagine it won’t happen in my lifetime. But the truth is that annually many more adults and children die of malaria and diarrheal diseases than HIV. In the age of HIV and avian flu and SARS, childhood diarrhea has almost disappeared from the priority list. But never fear. We at AED are working on it.
Recently the senior VP in charge of my division (of about 400 employees) came to Tanzania to work with T-MARC and also to check up on AED’s other projects. I had the honor of traveling with her up north to Arusha to meet with major regional players in malaria, malnutrition and micronutrients.
AED has a project called NETMARK which is charged with (among other things) brining new technologies in insecticide-treated nets to the market. Tanzania has four large net manufactures – one of which puts out 600,000 treated nets per year. We went to visit the factory. Here are some photos:
AED has a project called A to Z designed to work on nutrition issues. There is a whole big field of nutrition people I never realized were out there. Mostly they do therapeutic feeding (when a child is so malnourished that their parent has to bring them to live for a month in a feeding center). We are evidently considering supporting a French nutritional product that is meant for the not-so-malnourished that they need to be in a feeding center set, but malnourished enough that they need nutritional intervention under medical supervision. Their product has the very gross-sounding name (to me) of PlumpyNut. Yuck.
I bet you think that the reason we Westerners are so healthy (well free of the kinds of diseases that people here in Africa get) is because of our diets. Well, you’d be right. But it is not necessarily because we eat so many vegetables and drink the perfect amount of milk. A huge piece of it has to do with the fact that our food is fortified with tons of vitamins and minerals. Next time you have breakfast, read the cereal box and the milk. They put in extra calcium, vitamin D, various vitamin Bs, vitamin A, etc. Our food is filled with added vitamins and minerals, so much so, that most of us have no need to think about supplementing our diets with Flintstone’s multi-vitamins.
Vitamin A deficiency alone contributes in a huge way to childhood mortality in Africa. Iodine deficiencies cause mental health problems. I’ve already told you about zinc.
In any case, AED has a project called Africa 2010 which works on getting flour, salt, and other basic products fortified and then working with factories to teach them how to use the technology involved in fortification.
It is so simple really, and has the potential to save so many lives.
So there you have it… Some other stuff that I'm working on.