It Takes More Than Food to Cure Starvation

The biology of malnutrition makes rehabilitation difficult, and for children it often means lasting scars

AN ALARMING SIGHT greeted American health officials visiting the town of Hoddur in Somalia. Relief workers had distributed unmilled wheat to starving villagers, and scores of living skeletons were pounding the wheat by hand in order to make an edible mush. To the casual witness, the rhythmic thuds might have seemed the music of deliverance, but to those familiar with the grim calculus of starvation, they formed a dirge. The energy expended in grinding the wheat vastly exceeded the nutritional benefit of the mush. Relief supplies were killing the starving.

The tale underscores the difficulties of helping people who are dangerously...

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