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Protein-energy malnutrition--Africa; Digo (African people)--Health and hygiene


In short, even where protein malnutrition is primarily a result of poor environment, economy, and technology, other, often less obvious, traditional cultural patterns must be taken into account in any development and improvement program. If kwashiorkor is to be eliminated satisfactorily, and if contingent problems are to be kept to a minimum, these other patterns must often also be modified.

The importance of traditional cultural patterns is perhaps best illustrated by an example of a people who suffer from protein malnutrition primarily because of them. The Digo tribe of coastal Kenya and Tanganyika, among whom this writer conducted anthropological field research from October, 1958 to May, 1960, provide an excellent case in point. In spite of an adequate food supply perhaps as many as 25 % of Digo infants up to the age of about five or six suffer from kwashiorkor. Few individuals older than six have kwashiorkor, presumably both because of a change in diet at about this age, and because infants seriously afflicted die. In analyzing this situation, let us first briefly survey Digo environment, economy and diet. Then let us examine Digo concepts about and means of dealing with kwashiorkor. In conclusion, let us consider ways of combating kwashiorkor among the Digo.

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