The majority of Africa's children are breastfed during the first few months of life. Most remain relatively healthy then. However, when weaning starts, the only food available to them is often maize-based porridge. Maize is a poor source of essential nutrients, including vitamins and proteins (essential amino acids). This poor weaning diet starts a cycle of diarrhea and a weakening immune system.
For those who can afford cows' milk or formula, feeding difficulties also arise because their children's' ability to digest non-human milk is negatively affected. The affected babies often fail to respond to standard forms of treatment as long as the diet remains the same. In various parts of Africa, diseases that fail to respond to treatment as expected are often blamed on witchcraft. Weaning diarrhea is one such disease. The medical term for this type of diarrhea is 'lactose intolerance.'