For decades, undernourished infants across the world have been treated with a course of high-calorie, high-protein rich foods. The foods may come in various forms – from peanut-rich pastes to fatty milkshakes – but the common-sense philosophy is always the same: restore the most basic nutrients to the growing body as quickly as possible.
These “ready-to-use therapeutic foods” help to remove the immediate danger to the child’s life. But the battle is only half-won.
The period of undernourishment may be for just a few months, but consequences can last a lifetime. Throughout childhood and adolescence, the child will remain physically stunted and more vulnerable to infection. He or she also may show cognitive deficits, resulting in lower IQs, and reduced impulse control – which can mean falling behind at school and struggling to find employment as an adult.