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April 5, 2018

RUTF Shortage

“And what should we do when more come?” These were the words spoken by our ever joyful and optimistic head nurse, Constance, but those same words had been running through my mind as I slowly scanned our small ward with eight cribs surrounded by cheerful paintings of animals on the walls.

Instead of the usual five or six babies under the watchful eyes of mothers, these cribs now held two babies each with standing room only for the sixteen moms caring for the tiny, fragile occupants. An adjoining room with six beds had a total of 10 more babies and 10 more moms. I could tell our two shift nurses were weary as they continually made rounds with clipboards in hand, stopping at each child to observe and somehow finding an encouraging word to reduce the stress of each mom. Mary, our cook, walked through the door wiping wet hands on the apron she proudly wore each day to prepare healthy meals for these moms. As she passed through this room and on to the next, she counted numbers and hurried back to the outdoor kitchen to add yet more beans to the large pot of water simmering on the wood fired stove. She handed her daughter a few coins to run down the road to buy more fresh tomatoes to give more flavor to the beans – even though there were many to feed, the quality of meals would not be compromised on her watch! This was week two of operating without the benefit of the RUTF we had been receiving through the government and I felt what we were all feeling; this was only the beginning. Quietly, Constance repeated her question. “Auntie Renee, what should we do?” My answer came without hesitation because there was no other choice. “We will take them. God will help us find a way to provide the care they need.”

RUTF stands for Ready to Use Therapeutic Food, a packaged peanut butter based product fortified with specific ingredients to promote the rehabilitation of children with severe acute malnutrition. RUTF is required to operate an outpatient treatment care (OTC) program because of its unique ability to meet the nutritional needs of recovering children in the home without the costly care and housing required for inpatient treatment care (ITC) and is only available through the government and regulated throughout Uganda by USAID. The demand for this valuable resource has been steadily increasing due to the high needs in northern Uganda refugee camps, and in early April, all distribution of RUTF to Health Center IV’s like Kigandalo, was diverted to the refugees, leaving us only one option for the dozens of children in our OTC. Admit the more severe children to ITC and transition the others to a supplemental feeding program (SFP).

This would be our new normal for the coming months. As we quickly regrouped to accommodate these needs, our ITC number grew from 5 to 14, then 25, then 30. The hospital gave us access to a third room, ten more beds were brought, more nurses hired, extra food supplies purchased and two additional satellite supplemental feeding programs were launched in neighboring communities. With every increase in numbers of children, staffing and supplies our funding is being depleted. We anticipate an additional cost of $3,000 per month to meet these extended needs through at least September of 2018.

How can you help?

We need help to meet this additional financial burden. Would you consider partnering with us
to help raise the $15,000 needed to operate at this level through September?

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