RUTF Makes Life-Changing Surgery Possible for Children in Ghana

By Lauren Highfill Williams 

Peanut-based ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) is already used to save the lives of severely malnourished children around the world. But RUTF is also impacting children in the West African country of Ghana who suffer from another life-altering condition: cleft palate.

A cleft palate or cleft lip is a gap in the mouth that didn’t close properly during pregnancy. Globally, one in every 500 to 750 births have a cleft condition, according to Operation Smile (OS). More than a cosmetic difference, cleft conditions can make eating difficult — which can lead to malnutrition or starvation — and bring challenges with speech and social development. Correcting a child’s cleft condition can have a profound impact on their well-being.

OS is a non-profit organization established in 1982 to provide cleft care in more than 30 countries with help from thousands of volunteers. OS has been working in Ghana since 2011, which is also one of the countries where Project Peanut Butter (PPB) operates.

George Birdsong of Birdsong Peanuts has been involved with OS since 1992 and with Dr. Mark Manary of PPB since 2006. The program was brought to fruition as a structured study and the results are pending publication.
“When I learned that OS was having trouble with kids not being healthy enough for their cleft lip/pallet operation, I suggested about five years ago to use the peanut-based RUTF product for six to eight weeks before the scheduled operation to get the kids healthy,” Birdsong said. “OS is now using RUTF where needed all over the world for this purpose.”
NPB President and CEO Bob Parker visited the clinic last year.
“Visiting the OS clinic in Accra, Ghana, was a truly moving experience,” Parker said. “Seeing firsthand how a peanut butter-based food can bring malnourished children to a place where they can endure surgery is gratifying and cements my belief in peanuts as a superfood.”
Learn more about the power of peanut based RUTF on The Peanut Podcast: Peanuts in Humanitarian Aid episode. View a video of the Operation Smile clinic using RUTF in Ghana

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