By Air Force Staff Sgt. Tammie Moore
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 27, 2008 - Medical staff members of the Zabul provincial reconstruction team here helped hundreds of malnourished Afghan children regain their health. The PRT members began a four-week regimen of their "strong food," known locally as qavi ghiza, to the Shajoy hospital two months ago.
Strong food is a vitamin-enriched, high-calorie food supplement used to combat malnutrition. The Zabul PRT medical staff is working with local health officials to combat issues such as unsanitary water supplies and malnutrition, the main causes of the area's high infant mortality rate.
The area's public health administration staff has been using the low-cost and locally produced food supplement to treat more than 400 malnourished children.
"This program has been going very well and giving positive results. People know about it," said Dr. Zamarai Sultan, the public health administration nutrition officer. "It is going to be even more successful in the future."
Sultan has monitored the strong food program in Shajoy closely. In a patient sampling of 60 children, 78 percent have shown positive growth. The doctor said he has seen most patients gain 2 to 5 pounds a week while taking the supplement.
"People from this area are very poor," Sultan said. "They don't have enough money for their baby's special food. As long as we have this kind of program, it is going to succeed. Now people know this good thing about the strong food."
Sultan's support and the nutritional supplement's success in the Shajoy area provided Air Force Capt. (Dr.) James Arnold the momentum he needed to expand the program.
"Giving this program to Dr. Sultan has actually been the biggest help to us, because he is well invested in it," said Arnold, deployed from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. "He is a nutritionist. He deals with the malnourishment problem for the entire Zabul province."
Sultan's positive reputation in the medical field has helped convince his fellow doctors to join the program, Arnold said. The two doctors met local medical experts with pediatric specialties to go over the results.
"We are not going to stay around for the long haul," Arnold, a native of Grass Valley, Calif., said. "We [want] to give them something they can do on their own and sustain on their own."
After a demonstration on how to make the nutritional supplement, the medical professionals made a batch themselves with ingredients available locally. The concoction was blended using mixing sets donated by Michael Morgan, an Eagle Scout candidate with Boy Scout Troop 157 out of Salem, Ore.
"Boy Scouts are taught to seek opportunities to help others," the West Salem High School senior said. "I wanted to provide a service that was meaningful as I sought to complete my requirements for... the rank of Eagle. This project seemed challenging, but perfect."
Sultan said he is grateful for the effort the PRT put into launching the program.
"I am very thankful to this team," he said. "This is a very active team, and they have really wanted to work, and [it] has been seen."
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Tammie Moore serves with U.S. Air Forces Central.)