“Atmit to the Rescue,” Liahona, Feb. 2006, N1–N2
In August 2005, when the Church received a request from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to partner with them to send aid to Niger, an African nation facing major food shortages because of crop-devastating locust attacks and severe drought, the Church responded immediately with its largest ever air shipment of Atmit. The Church provided 80,000 pounds (36 tonnes) of the specialized porridge made for those suffering from severe malnourishment. Since then, subsequent shipments have been made and will continue according to need.
In Ethiopian, atmit means “thin, nourishing porridge.” The Church began using Atmit as a life-saving food supplement during the Ethiopian famine of 2003. It is an easily assimilated food made especially for children and the elderly—and it has saved tens of thousands of lives. It contains 50 percent fine oatmeal flour, 25 percent nonfat milk, 20 percent sugar, and 5 percent vitamins and minerals. After Church representatives received the formula in Ethiopia, they took it to nutritionists at Brigham Young University to verify the nutritional value. The Church began manufacturing Atmit in 2003 and since then has produced almost 1,500 tons (1350 tonnes) at the Church’s Welfare Services dairy processing facility in Salt Lake City.
During that time, Atmit has also been distributed by the Church to Uganda, Sudan, South Africa, Haiti, Gaza, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.
Children are particularly susceptible to malnourishment, as their young bodies have not yet been able to store a reserve of nutrients. For that reason, Atmit is given specifically to children age five and younger.
“When the whole family isn’t getting adequate food, it really affects a small child more than anyone else. Because of the type of food they are being fed, they’re not getting the nutritional value they need, so they just become more and more malnourished,” said director of Humanitarian Emergency Response for the Church, Garry Flake, who visited hard-hit areas of Niger in late August 2005.
Mothers bring children in to be measured and weighed to determine whether they are malnourished enough to benefit from the product. The mother is taught how to prepare the porridge and how to administer it periodically throughout the day. After a week, the child is brought in again and assessed.
“We find that within three to four weeks some children really respond,” Brother Flake said. “For others it takes longer. Our goal is to feed them just long enough with this supplement that they can then get back to the type of food the rest of the family is eating.”
As part of a scheduled trip to Africa, Brother Flake made a stop in Niger to witness the distribution of the Atmit. “It was a very sobering experience to see malnourished children, but an uplifting feeling to realize the Church is there so quickly with such an effective product that has now been proven to make a difference for so many children,” he said.
Brother Flake said the Church’s belief in preparedness puts it in a position to be an asset to the world in times of need. “The Church has become a worldwide-recognized humanitarian relief organization, particularly in emergency response,” he said.
Brother Flake said his involvement with the Atmit distribution has been a spiritually touching experience. “When we know through Church teachings the worth of a child, I don’t know of anything that we do that can be more special than helping a child to live and grow normally,” he said. “This intervention with the Atmit nutritional supplement has to be one of the finest humanitarian interventions that we do in the world. I think it is really what the Savior would have done—to help these children who are so malnourished to live a happy, normal life.”