Combatting pre-school child malnutrition in Venezuela

Otras publicaciones, Werner Jaffe

Combatting pre-school child malnutrition in Venezuela


Instituto Nacional de Nutrición, Caracas, Venezuela

The existence of a serious nutritional problem in Venezuela, especially among the children, was recognized several years ago. A group of pediatricians undertook one of the earliest studies of this problem in Latin America. The term «Sindrome Pluricarencial Infantil» was coined by them to designate what is now called «Kwashiorkor.» Cases were studied mostly in hospitalized patients and treated with milk diets. A system of «Centros Materno Infantiles» was established covering the whole territory of the Republico Distribution of milk for newborn children was initiated. In order to discourage use of this milk by other members of the family, and also for reasons of better digestibility, acidified commercial milk formulas were used. This program had a very favorable effect on reduction of the mortality rate of infants. But it was not recognized clearly at first that the problem was merely postponed to children of 1to 7 years of age for whom no comparable program existed.

When the National Nutritional Institute of Venezuela was created by the National Government in 1950, the investigators decided that their first task would be study of the incidence of malnutrition in different age groups and in different regions of the country. At the same time, they decided to study composition and availability of foods. It was soon realized that the age group most affected by malnutrition was children between 1and 7. The organization of mother and child health centers would not help them nor could these children benefit from the school lunch program. It became clear that one of the foremost tasks of the Nutritional Institute was to help the 1 to 7 year old children.

Based on these results, and the fact that the number of patients admitted to the children’s departments of national hospitals because of malnutrition was large, organization of special prophylactic measures· was considered an urgent task. After studies of the biological and economic aspects of available protein sources, it was concluded that a product based on dried skim milk would be most promising. The worldwide campaign of UNICEF after VV orld War II, using this product, in programs to combat child malnutrition was an important factor in reaching this conclusion.

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