Plumpy’nut feeds starving children in Africa

Doctors Without Borders nutritionist Dr. Milton Tectonidis, “Now we have something. It is like an essential medicine. In three weeks, we can cure a kid that … looked like they’re half dead. We can cure them just like an antibiotic.” When asked if Plumpy’nut was like penicillin, the doctor replies, “For these kids, yes.”

I just saw the story on 60 minutes on Plumpy’nut being distributed by Doctors Without Borders in Maradi, Niger. The little faces of starving African children was horrible…as it always is. I’m happy to see this wasn’t just another plea for aid, but a story about viable, inexpensive solutions to hunger. I was also happy to see that this product brings jobs and industry to the poorest of the poor.
Oh and let me say this before the comments come:  For those of you who will say that the sugar content of the product is to high, I have to agree to an extent. For those who would say that there could be a more wholesome product that is better for the health of these children that could be produced, I say, “I’m sure there may be”.  However, if Plumpy’nut will make a difference between life or death for a starving child, even if it only means a few more years of life, I’m happy about it’s being made available in Africa.  I’m not going to criticize the efforts, especially if I don’t have any solutions that I can currently impliment and save lives.

(Click here for the New York Times article)

Plumpy’nut is a peanut-based food for use in famine relief which was formulated by André Briend, a French scientist in 1999.

It is a high protein and high energy peanut-based paste in a foil wrapper that can be distributed to children at home rather than in specialist feeding stations and can be eaten without any preparation. It tastes like a slightly sweeter kind of peanut butter.

The problem of malnutrition has often been addressed by nutritious powdered milk. These have to be prepared in hygienic conditions with clean water and once prepared must be chilled to prevent spoilage. This entails their being distributed in medically staffed feeding stations. Plumpy’nut costs about the same as the milk powders but is easier to transport in bulk and takes up less space. In areas where there is no clean water and no refrigeration this is a Godsend.

The great innovation of the Plumpy’nut bar is that it requires no preparation or special supervision and greatly reduces the amount of money needed to be spent on feeding stations. It is very difficult to over eat and keeps even after opening. It has a 2 year shelf life when unopened. An untrained adult such as a parent can deliver it to a malnourished child at home.

The ingredients are: peanut paste, vegetable oil, milk powder, vitamins and minerals, combined in a foil pouch. Each pack provides 500 kilocalories. (wikipedia)


Filed under africa, change, children, news

3 responses to “Plumpy’nut feeds starving children in Africa

  1. Pingback: Now and Here… - » Plumpynut - Doctors Without Borders

  2. The children needing this are also calorie deficient … so the added sugar is a good thing for them (for a short while). From the tv coverage, it wouldn’t hurt if the adults got a few of those bars, too.

    However, this only deals with the surface problem and has the potential for an even larger tragedy written all over it. The next step is greatly expanded educational opportunities so that these additional survivors of childhood won’t become adult starvation victims or, in the struggle for limited resources, war.

    Oprah … are you reading this?

    The reality is that the girls marry young, make a lot of babies and bury the weak ones. And the reason for this is that it is a survival tactic that works when the land already has too many people on it for the amount of food available. In the Darwinian view, it ‘selects’ for starvation resistance. The kid who can live on the least nutrition is ‘selected’ to live. The rest die.

    It doesn’t have to be that way.

    Here’s why: the land already cannot support the people living on it. Yet the girls are having an AVERAGE of eight babies, of whom roughly two will die young (25% mortality) and six will survive to reproductive age themselves. That’s three times as many people standing on the same ground as couldn’t feed their parents.

    This is exactly what lead to the Irish potato famines. (yes, plural … the last famine had, you guessed it, a 25% mortality rate caused by needless starvation) (Ecclesiastes 8:9 — during the famine exports of food from Ireland actually increased substantially)

    There are three ways to fix this – wholesale slaughter (genocide – whether by gun or by starvation or by disease), reduced birth rates (allowing normal attrition to gradually improve matters) and increased productivity (getting more food from the same or less land).

    Education is neutral in the first mode, causing about as many problems as it cures, but helps in the last two. So the next step is education. Education about better farming methods to start and education about being competitive in a global economy to continue. It wouldn’t hurt if they had a few more tractors and some good wells, too.

    If you are moved to donate, I’d like to suggest that, for every dime you contribute to feed these children today, you toss in another 90 cents to educate them for their future … and prevent the coming genocide.

  3. Patty Ferman

    I think you should come to Southern Alabama! We grow peanuts all over here and there is a high rate of unemployment. You could set up a factory and have plenty of labor and product to feed those little children! I am a dietitian in Opp, Alabama.

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