ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan - The leading threats to the lives of Afghan children under the age of five are death at birth, diarrhea or starvation. In order to combat these causes, the international community introduced programs to fight malnourishment, and bacteria and parasites in local water.

Strong Food, a program that provides an inexpensive food source for starving children, and
Clean Water, a process to provide Afghans a means to clean their local water, are achieving promising results.

"It is a great success," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Paul Herrera-Ramirez, a Provincial Reconstruction
Team-Zabul aerospace medical technician from Palm Springs, Calif. "As parents, we all have something in common, our children. We all care about our children's health."

Strong Food and Clean Water are ongoing projects to improve the locals' lifestyle in Zabul province. The Ministry of Public Health with the help of PRT-Zabul - a civil and military organization meant to bring reconstruction, development, governance and security to the province - organized these programs to tackle the most common causes of death among children.
In Afghanistan, one in five children will not see the age of five due to the lack of nourishment and sanitized water. The Ministry of Public Health and PRT-Zabul recognized these problems and sought for solutions that would be effective and sustainable with local resources.

"The best benefit of all is the ingredients can be purchased at the local bazaar," said Herrera-

Strong Food is a food supplement made up of almonds, sugar, powdered milk, liquid vitamin supplements and vegetable oil. The almonds are ground into a powder and mixed with the rest of the ingredients to create a paste. The paste does not have to be refrigerated and can be stored at room temperature up to four months before spoiling. Currently, Strong Food is prepared and distributed to the districts through the provincial hospital located in Qalat City, the Zabul capital.
Strong Food is an example of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food. RUTF is a type of medical food that can address malnutrition at earlier stages. The medical food's main purpose is to increase children's weight and appetite.

"The children love the taste of Strong Food, and the providers see dramatic success," said Air
Force Maj. Elizabeth A. Erickson, the PRT-Zabul senior medical officer from Blaine, Minn.
Medical providers are also using the Clean Water program to help care for their patients. The idea behind the program is to get rid of diarrheal and dysentery diseases caused by bacteria and parasites found in local water. Diarrhea and dysentery are the most common ailments in Zabul. A simple and safe method of local chlorine production makes it possible to serve the needs of more than 5,000 Afghans.

The chlorine production starts with a hypochlorite generator, solar panels and table salt. The generator converts table salt into a dilute hypochlorite solution that is bottled and distributed to the locals. A tablespoon of the solution in a four-gallon container can kill 99 percent of bacteria. It is harmless if not diluted.

"It's hard," said Herrera-Ramirez. "[We are turning] a culture away from a source of water that they have been using for hundreds of years, but once they learn the benefits of Clean Water, they cling on to the program."

The Ministry of Public Health with the help of PRT-Zabul is tackling health problems head on with Strong Food and Clean Water. Both programs continue to expand throughout the province