Research shows that a large portion of stunting — a reduction in linear height/growth — results in major long-term consequences, including lower cognitive development, lower IQs and the anticipation that stunted babies will earn less money as adults. Studies also show that up to 40 percent of stunting can occur before a baby is even born, with some saying the elimination of stunting in the utero will give the baby the best chance at life.
Support for mothers
In March 2017, PPB Sierra Leone launched a new maternal health study for malnourished mothers within the Pujehun District. The study enrolls malnourished women up to 35 weeks pregnant into a program distributing a ready-to-use supplementary food called Mama Dutasi. Mama Dutasi provides basic nutrition, supplements, vitamins and nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy, including iron and folic acid.
The women are also dewormed, screened for infections, given strategies to prevent malaria and tested for urinary infections. The women visit a PPB clinic every two weeks up until the birth of the baby, a significant difference in the standard 3 to 4 visits throughout their entire pregnancy. PPB researchers hope to conclude that reliable pregnancy care will result in healthier, less-stunted babies even after birth.
Mamie enrolled in the study in June 2017 and recently gave birth at 34 weeks to a healthy baby boy. She was first recommended to the maternal study by a public health unit staff member after having given birth to four other children and the loss of one baby during the birth. Malnutrition in pregnant women often results in birth problems including miscarriage, stillborn babies, underweight babies and excessive bleeding, which is particularly life-threatening for mothers with anemia.
Mamie says, “The PPB program created an impact on my life. Without the intervention of the study, I would have lost this baby.”
Another young mother, Jebbeh, recently visited a PPB clinic in the Bumpeh village with a bright smile and a big personality to proudly display her two-week-old baby girl. Jebbeh had joined the PPB maternal study in June 2017.
Fatmata, a PPB midwife, says Jebbeh was very small when she joined but has since reached a healthy state. Jebbeh had been pregnant once before but lost the baby. She says since joining the PPB program, she felt more prepared to be a mother to her new daughter and that the study made a big difference in her pregnancy, particularly the Mama Dutasi supplement. Jebbeh says she had no issues while giving birth to her baby girl and is incredibly proud of her daughter, boasting about her beauty.
The PPB maternal study team is thrilled to have helped women like Jebbeh become healthier mothers with healthier babies.
Dr. Mark Manary, Founder, Project Peanut Butter, [email protected]