Hey, friends! I'm Donna and I'm a registered pharmacist in the Philippines. A couple of months ago, I moved to Boracay Island to take a break from my life. Instead of partying and going out, what preoccupied my mind was the undernourished child population of the local Aeta tribe. They were everywhere outside of bars, clubs, and restaurants begging for money from the tourists even at the wee hours of the morning. These kids were undernourished in all sense – their growths were wasted, stunted, a combination of both, and most likely micronutrient deficient as well. The situation had me thinking and researching the numbers online and I realized how much of a problem child malnourishment is, not only in the Philippines, but globally most especially in developing nations.
About 7.6 million children under 5 die annually (WHO, 2010). Almost 60% of these deaths in the developing world are due to malnutrition and its interactive effects on preventable diseases (Science Daily, June 2003). More than 80% of malnutrition-related deaths are due to mild-to-moderate malnutrition.
In 2010, about 20 million children worldwide were estimated to suffer from severe acute malnutrition with an estimated 171 million children below 5 were stunted and 104 million were underweight. Cornell nutritionist researchers reported that malnourished children are up to 12 times more likely to die from easily preventable and treatable diseases.
In the Philippines, child mortality is about 29% (WB, 2010). About half of the child population is undernourished and over one third of child deaths are linked to malnutrition (UNICEF, 2010). The main contributor to child undernourishment here in the Philippines, is of course poverty. We all know that the most critical growth period for the infant is its first 24 months. Inadequate nutrition during this time results to irreversible effects that include low weight for one’s height (wasted), low height for one’s age (stunted), impairment of cognitive ability, among other things (IFPRI, 2010). Most mothers during this time period aren’t able to provide their infants with proper nutrition (breastfeeding is cut short, no supplementation of infant formula) because most of them are undernourished themselves and behold, very poor. This results to undernutrition in a great number of child population, making the children more vulnerable to severe malnutrition if they get sick AND making the children more vulnerable to illness because they’re undernourished.
The most logical step in preventing child death (under 5) then is to improve child health. If a child is well-nourished, he is most likely more resistant to diseases and if he does get sick, he is not that vulnerable to, uh, death. And this is very feasible – economically and scientifically.
Here is my take on helping solve the problem. I came up with a soy-free non-dairy infant formula made of very cheap local ingredients that is aimed to conform to FDA and USDA standards. This infant formula would deliver optimal nutrition to the infant that is very affordable and accessible especially to the low-income earning spectrum of Filipino society. Also, the formula has a unique feature: it has an indigestible component similar to indigestible human breast milk. Basically, the indigestible component serves to stimulate the growth of Bifidobacterium longum infantis and serve as decoy to noxious microbes that may attack the infant’s gut. The promoted microbiota growth would be protective of the infant. You would see that my infant formula, which I lovingly call BIFIDUDE, supports under 5 child nutrition by nourishing the infant with balanced nutrition AND providing the infant with Bifido protection.
This is an independent study that has designed the formula to complement breastfeeding and in cases where breastfeeding is absent, would be the best choice to replace the role of breast milk in selectively growing Bifido strains in the infant gut.
This is the first phase of a series of project on this formula. And I’m asking for your help to fund this project for microbial and animal testing in the laboratory that I, myself, would be performing.
Child death is a global problem. If we, as citizens of this world, can improve the health of children in developing nations with economically reasonable and scientifically simple methods, we can prevent the death of millions of children without increasing our resources. I believe that my formula perfectly fits in this equation because it is made of cheap and LOCAL ingredients that can provide optimum nutrition.
Also, my formula is based around the biology of the gut microbiota. This study could give a fresh perspective on how we approach infant formula design.
I hope to get this study published. If that happens, I want to further the project with feeding programs and hopefully make a study on the effect of the formula on the population of my proposed feeding programs.
The study is of high personal significance as well. I am planning to commence my graduate studies in 2013 and this will be a starting point for one of my researches. I am also ambitiously planning to establish a DIY lab that caters to local researches focusing on local resources that give immediate scientific solutions to local health problems.
Lastly, I want to emphasize that how I came up with the formulation generalizes. Other developing nations can come up with their own indigestible component in their own formulas using my strategy. I’m also ambitiously hoping my solution to improving child health would get viral across all developing nations.
WHAT I NEED
I am raising funds to buy additional equipments so I can go ahead with my microbial and animal tests. My project goal is to raise $4,000.00 to buy the following:
:: Animal Care Systems – MICE 14-Cage System
:: Small Incubator
:: Sterilizer/Autoclave Benchtop
:: Cheap Microscope
:: Supplementary Lab Equipments like Softouch Forceps
:: Miscellaneous Lab Wares like petridish, petridish holder, inoculating loops, test tubes, test tube holders,etc.
:: Culture Media Ingredients
I really need YOUR help to reach this goal. In case this project gets 100% funding, I may still need more donation to sustain lab costs so your additional donation would be more than welcomed.
WHAT YOU GET
Your kindness won’t go unnoticed. Check out the corresponding reward you get for specific pledge amounts on the right of this page.
OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP
If you can’t donate in cash, you can always donate your lab equipments you’re no longer using, or you can just help spread the word by sharing my project through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, email, etc.
I hope to start the experiments in October and finish in 3-6 months. If you have questions, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than willing to discuss the details of my work.
*Photo stolen from buyprobiotics.com.