(cross-posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

I wrote the original diary on this topic almost a year ago to the day and thought perhaps that it was a topic worthy of revisiting.

Every year, malnutrition kills five million children - that's one child every six seconds.  Many do not get the milk, vitamins and minerals their developing bodies need. Furthermore, some mothers in these villages can't produce enough milk themselves and can't afford to buy it. Even if milk was available, its very difficult to store -- there's no electricity, so no refrigeration. Powdered milk is useless because most don't have clean water.

However 'Doctors Without Borders' or 'Médecins Sans Frontières' believes that there is a product that can save millions of these children.  And could possibly be the most important advance ever to cure and prevent malnutrition.


A ready-to-eat, vitamin-enriched paste - it's cheap, easy to make, and extremely easy to use.  It is a simple formula: made of peanut butter, powdered milk, powdered sugar, and enriched with vitamins and minerals. It tastes like a peanut butter and is very sweet, and because of that many of the children love it. Developed by a nutritionist, it does not need refrigeration, water, or cooking; it is simply squeezed out in a paste and thus many children can even feed themselves.

Each serving is the equivalent of a glass of milk and a multivitamin.

In Niger, West Africa, where child malnutrition is widespread, 'Doctors Without Borders' has been handing out Plumpy'nut.  This was covered in a segment by 60 Minutes.

On a list of 177 developing countries, the United Nations ranked Niger dead last. More than 70% of the people are illiterate and earn less than a dollar a day. The average woman will give birth at least eight times in her life. But largely because of malnutrition, one in five of their children will die before they reach the age of five. Of those who survive, half will have stunted growth and never reach full adult height.

Niger has become Plumpy'nut's proving ground. A daily dose costs about $1; small factories mix it there and in three other African countries.  In Niger, most children need help now during what's called the "hunger season," just before the new harvest. Old food supplies have run out and about all that's left is millet, a basic grain women pound for porridge. But millet doesn't have enough nutrients to keep kids alive; in the western world it is used it as birdseed.

Dr. Susan Shepherd, a pediatrician who runs Doctors Without Borders in Niger, says children that would have been hospitalized in the past can now be treated at home. "The reason we can do that is because we can give children Plumpy'nut here in the ambulatory center, and they take a week's ration home. Moms treat their children at home and come back every week for a weight check," Dr. Shepherd explained.

Children are weighed and measured at the distribution sites. They're also examined to make sure they don't have any serious infections. Malnutrition destroys a child's immune system, so they're more susceptible to diseases and less capable of recovering from them.

If Plumpy'nut is the answer, how come kids are still dying?

"The answer is getting to kids earlier," Shepherd says. "Once children are as sick as she is, Plumpy'nut is not gonna save her."

What about peanut allergies?

"We just don't see it.  In developing countries food allergy is not nearly the problem that it is in industrialized countries."

Fortified ready-to-eat products, like Plumpy'nut, save children's lives. nutritional specialist for Médecins Sans Frontières, Dr. Milton Tectonidis says if the more countries were willing to spend part of their food aid on this, more companies will start making it.

"Even by taking a miniscule proportion of the global food aid budget, they will have a huge impact, huge impact!" Tectonidis says. "We're not even asking for billions. It will solve so much of the underlying useless death. So we gotta do that now."

"Wasted life. Just totally wasted life for nothing. Because they don't have this product, a little bit of peanut butter with vitamins," Tectonidis says. "What a waste."

Médecins Sans Frontières is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural or man-made disasters.

Tags: africa, Hunger, malnutrition, plumpynut (all tags)



tips for eradicating hunger.

by canadian gal 2009-07-14 11:36AM | 0 recs
please consider cross-posting

this diary at La Vida Locavore, a community blog for all things related to food and agriculture.

by desmoinesdem 2009-07-14 04:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Plumpy'nut.

I get upset whenever I see a rocket taking off, bringing astronauts to the Space Station. I have no feelings of pride that my species is flying in space or landing on the moon.

I get upset because while we fund such projects with billions of dollars, more than 25,000 children die every day for various reasons including hunger, malnutrition, and disease, some of which are easily cured with a few pennies of aid. That's why I support Doctors Without Borders. I hope others will consider doing the same.

Thanks for this diary. We need more of them.

by MainStreet 2009-07-14 12:37PM | 0 recs
Shouldn't you research a little bit to see the

impact of the knowledge gathered by these missions on humans on Earth before getting upset?

by louisprandtl 2009-07-14 01:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Shouldn't you research a little bit to see the

Yes, you're right. My wife now wants a space mattress, an eight inch queen sized piece of foam that only costs $1,500, which resulted from billions of dollars of space research. That kind of money could have saved hundreds of thousands of children, but what the hell....

by MainStreet 2009-07-14 08:14PM | 0 recs
Now you're being plain silly. Please take a

break from blogging.

by louisprandtl 2009-07-14 10:20PM | 0 recs
Good Points MS and LP, and a Tough Call

It's difficult not to react emotionally and with some level of outrage when considering how widespread undernourishment, including outright starvation, is in too many parts of the world. In the map at ss/img/galleries/global_food_and_agricul tural_perspectives_map_presentation/map0 1.gif (from UN FAO), the number of countries where 20% to 50% of the population are regularly undernourished (read: starving) is nothing short appalling!

I guess Dan Quayle put it best in his folksy parable alluding to the steps necessary to conquer hunger in October of '92...

"If you give a person a fish, they'll fish for a day. But if you train a person to fish, they'll fish for a lifetime, and they'll live for a lifetime."

That about sums it up.

And while reasonable people can disagree on the relative amounts of money and effort optimally distributed between research and knowledge-increasing activities vs. immediate efforts to reduce human misery and suffering (including starvation)...

Looking at that map above, then seeing on the news some unfathomably expensive rocket delivering an expensive weapon surely and deftly into areas where people (try to) live, killing and/or maiming significant numbers of people - that just makes my blood boil.

Of course, some of the people killed by the missle were probably slowly starving to death anyway, so I guess it all works out in the end.

Thank God for efforts like this, and for the reality check provided by this diary.

I know it's just a twist on an old joke, but I'd really like to see the day when nutritious food is delivered surely and deftly right where it's needed, and the Air Force needs to hire some empathetic bearded gentleman to make entreaties for more money during an hour-long infomercial airing frequently during the 3am-5am time frame.

If you pledge a certain amount per month, the Pentagon will send you pictures of the rocket they're building with your money, so you can see it grow and mature...

That'll be the day!

by RecoveringRepublican 2009-07-15 02:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Good Points MS and LP, and a Tough Call

Thanks for quoting this map. It gives some indication of the dimension of the problem of hunger, starvation, and malnutrition.


I don't disagree with the notion that economic develpment is at the core of stamping out death through malnutrition. And I am thoroughly supportive of the Millenium Project proposed by Jeff Sachs, which is focused on sucn development. But we just can't sit by and watch 25,000 children die every year for small reasons such as mpt having enough food daily and simple vaccinations.

I do not believe that our space projects have contributed anything to the problem of malnutrition or lack of economic development, except maybe for my wife's desire for a space mattress. As far as I know, it is not edible.

by MainStreet 2009-07-16 09:08AM | 0 recs
I suggest you read up on development of
satellites and its impact on weather pattern prediction and today's farming.
BTW do you use GPS?
by louisprandtl 2009-07-16 10:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Plumpy'nut.

We need both.  The space program is good for the international psyche.  When we are looking outwards at the wonders of the universe we aren't squabbling with our neighbors over the property line.

But of course we need to give all children a fair chance to grow up and get an education.  Who knows, maybe one of those children saved will one day become an astronaut. :)

by GFORD 2009-07-15 09:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Plumpy'nut.

We can sign up for a monthly donation to Doctors Without Borders at the link below:

https:/www.doctorswithoutborders-usa.or g/donate/fieldpartners?ref=main-menu

Thank you for this diary!

by JerryColorado23 2009-07-14 01:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Plumpy'nut.

Thanks for this suggestion. I am a long supporter of Doctors Without Borders, but because my wife and I support other organizations, a regular contribution is not possible.

Doctors is a great humanitarian organization.

by MainStreet 2009-07-16 09:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Plumpy'nut.

Plumpynut is great. I've written on it before as well.


A problem that goes under-reported is that rules of global trade inhibit developing nations from developing a light manufacturing sector. The US, Japan and the EU all have tariffs at or near zero on raw commodities but as the level of processing increases so does the tariff. So cocoa beans pay no tariff at all but process it into cocoa butter or cocoa powder and the tariff rises to over 30%. In Mozambique, for example, cashews were roasted in country when the country was a Portuguese colony but over time rising tariffs in the EU led to collapse of Mozambique's nut roasting sector. So now Mozambique exports its cashew crop almost in toto. You can go down the line country by country and you'll find the rules of global trade are stacked against the producing countries in favour of the consuming countries.

Plumpynut is manufactured in Niger and that's just a crucial a development. Breaking the cycle of poverty in Africa requires a re-balancing of global trade rules. It should be noted that Mali and Niger, though neighbours, trade more with France than with each other.

by Charles Lemos 2009-07-14 04:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Plumpy'nut.

Thanks Charles for putting a face on some of the problems contributing to poverty. Undoubtedly, the profit motive and greed inspired some of these practices, and people in poor countries are paying the price.

by MainStreet 2009-07-16 09:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Plumpy'nut.

This is awesome.  FYI, Senator Durbin did a fundraising push for Plumpynut around the holidays in 2007.  Email here: tion.tcl?newsletter_id=19329747


Dear Friend,

It's that time of year.

Those of us blessed with everything we could reasonably want are asked by friends and loved ones what we "want" this holiday season.

It's a little embarrassing to dream up another gift idea when our lives are so filled with the blessings and comfort of prosperity.

Does this sound familiar?

If it does, I have a suggestion.

Join me in making this a Plumpynut Christmas. A Plumpynut Hannukah.

Several weeks ago I watched a 60 Minutes segment by Anderson Cooper. He showed us children of Africa with swollen bellies, matchstick arms and legs, wide-eyed empty stares. He explained their likely fate of death in their mother's arms. He told us of all the failed effort to save them.

And then he told us about Plumpynut.

This sweetened mixture of peanuts, essential vitamins, minerals and milk served in foil pouches has become a high-nutrient, high-energy weapon in fighting malnutrition. Mothers see their babies restored and smiling and growing and discharged after an average of six weeks.

Developed by researchers in 1999, Plumpynut is one of several new "Ready-to-Use Foods" or RUFs that can save lives. Right now five million children under five years of age die each year due to malnutrition-related illnesses. The increased use of RUFs in food aid and nutrition programs could have an enormous impact on these tragic deaths.

The cost for a two week supply of Plumpynut to treat a severely malnourished child?

Twenty dollars.

Twenty dollars: A night at the movies for two. A bad tie. More socks. A gift certificate for three lattes. A book you will never read. A CD you already own.

All I "want" for Christmas is Plumpynut.

And the satisfaction of looking at my wonderful family this holiday season and knowing they have joined me in doing one small thing to make this a better world.

I will do what I can to expand the use of this innovative treatment. You can help.

Please join me by donating as many twenties as you can to Doctors Without Borders' Nutrition Program.

This program will provide Plumpynut and other RUFs to malnourished children in Africa, and will call on others to expand their use and save more children from malnutrition.

Have a Plumpynut Christmas. A Plumpynut Kwanzaa. A Plumpynut Hannukah. And a great Plumpynut New Year.


Dick Durbin
U.S. Senator

by sfbrentb 2009-07-15 01:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Plumpy'nut.

Rec'd for the Beavis like giggle induced by the title.  The rest of the diary is cool too.  ;)

by fogiv 2009-07-15 03:08PM | 0 recs


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