Heinz nurtures vitamin-deficient Haitian young

Ian Rawson, managing director of Hopital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti, is working with researchers at H.J. Heinz Co. to battle malnutrition. "They are struggling, and we are so excited about the opportunity to help them," said the Pittsburgh native about NurtureMate, a new vitamin-enriched product targeted at Haitians ages 6 months to 2 years. James Knox | Tribune-Review

By Jill King Greenwood

When women in Haiti stop nursing their babies, it doesn’t take long for malnutrition to set in.

Breast-feeding typically ceases when infants are 6 months old and they are transitioned to a diet high in corn, rice and wheat grains. The children don’t get enough iron, zinc and other nutrients and can become malnourished quickly and susceptible to illness and disease, Ian Rawson, managing director of Hopital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti, said on Wednesday.

Rawson — a Pittsburgh native in the United States to deliver the commencement address on Friday at Goucher College in Baltimore — is working to change that with a team of researchers at H.J. Heinz Co. Heinz has developed a nutritional supplement called NurtureMate, which it will begin distributing in the poverty-stricken nation this summer.

“With the malnutrition comes the cholera, and the tuberculosis, inhibited growth and cognitive development and so many other things,” said Rawson, who has worked since 2009 at the hospital founded by the Mellon family 55 years ago. “They are struggling, and we are so excited about the opportunity to help them and lift them out of that.”

The NurtureMate, a sachet similar in size to a sugar packet, is sprinkled on top of food, Rawson said. It is odorless and colorless.

Sixty packets cost just $1.50 to manufacture, said Tammy Aupperle, director of the H.J. Heinz Company Foundation. The first distribution will reach 14,000 children, she said, and the effort aims to target children ages 6 months to 2 years.

“This is such a critical stage in a child’s life, and their mental and physical development and growth are critical in that time period,” Aupperle said.

The Heinz Micronutrient Fund was started in 2007, and the supplements have been distributed in Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and other developing countries, Aupperle said.

Heinz and Dr. Stanley Zlotkin, of Toronto, developed the supplement, which can be customized to meet the needs of different cultures in different countries, Aupperle said. Children in Mongolia are swaddled in heavy blankets because of the cold weather, she said, and most become Vitamin D-deficient because they lack exposure to the sun.

In Haiti, the biggest need is iron, Rawson said.

Rawson said that when he is in Haiti, he looks past the devastation and sees hope, progress and a bright future.

Though the people still are suffering from the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck in January 2010 and the cholera outbreak that followed, Haitians overall are vibrant, hopeful and happy, he said.

“There is so much love and support for Haiti, and the beauty of Haiti is its energy and positive life force,” said Rawson. “They’ve grieved their losses and put it in the past.”

Some construction has begun, though many people still live in tent cities, Rawson said, adding that it will take “years and years” before the capital of Port-au-Prince is rebuilt. The city was one of the areas hit hardest by the earthquake.

The Brothers’ Brother Foundation in Pittsburgh has raised more than $966,000 in cash for Haiti since the earthquake and has collected $43 million worth of material, medicine and food, said Luke Hingson, director of the North Side-based charity.

Pittsburgh-area doctors routinely travel to Haiti to provide medical services, Rawson said.


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7 thoughts on “Heinz nurtures vitamin-deficient Haitian young

  1. i do not know why,all of those NGO CEOs sound so fake to me that, i do not even want to listen to them anymore saying that they are doing their best to help.for christ sake, what help when the situation is getting worst the more they are present.i say get the dam mask off and start be true to people.you are there filling out your banking account.it has always been your interest never the other so, shut the fuck up and tell the truth

  2. Jean: shut the fuck up and let’s see what these folks MIGHT do.

    1. Ok guys, I have to step in and say COOL IT WITH THE PROFANITY please. It may feel good to write at the moment of expressing in writing, but it sure does look tacky on our pages.

  3. One thing Jean said that I think is worth repeating is that they should remove their “mask” and to be true (likely honest as well) people.

    Absolutely. Get the F###ING masks off and start helping the folks in GODDAMN TENT CAMPS!!!!

    If the people in this article can succeed with their plan, then we are blessed. It is a kind gesture, let us all hope.

  4. and if that does not get deleted, my apologies in advance. We are ANGRY at times, and speak

  5. Childhood malnutrition is implicated in 50% of deaths of children < 5 years old globally and also in Haiti. A multinational team of leading economists delivered a report last year concluding that distribution of micronutrient vitamins (like the ones described in the article) is the #1 most cost effective, high impact intervention available for reducing poverty in developing countries like haiti (it had the highest bang for the buck, after they did all the math calculations).

    Iron deficiency in Haiti is a particularly big contributor to child mortality and illness — and also it reduces the cognitive capacity long term of the children, their ability to be productive adults, and so it really can contribute to keeping generations of family in poverty. Interventions like the one described in the article help to get rid of one of Haiti's devastating, intractable and longterm social problems in a cost effective way, so i say it's a very good thing and thank Dr. Rawlings and Dr. Zlotkin for their important contributions.

    1. Thank you “Med student” for the comment. It is very appreciated.

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