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Plumpy'nut is saving lives in Niger.

"In the crowd of riotously dressed mothers clasping wailing, naked infants at a Médecins Sans Frontières feeding center just west of here, Taorey Asama, at 27 months old, stands out for a heart-rending reason: She looks like a normal baby.

Many of the others have the skeletal frames and baggy skin of children with severe malnutrition. The good news is that a month ago, so did Taorey.

'When she came here, she was all small and curled up,' said her mother, Henda, 30. 'It's Plumpy'nut that's made her like this. She's immense!'

Never heard of Plumpy'nut? Come to Maradi, a bustling crossroads where the number of malnourished children exceeds even the flocks of motor scooters flitting down its dirt streets. At this epicenter of Niger's latest hunger crisis, Plumpy'nut is saving lives.

Plumpy'nut, which comes in a silvery foil package the size of two grasping baby-size hands, is 500 calories of fortified peanut butter, a beige paste about as thick as mashed potatoes and stuffed with milk, vitamins and minerals...

...Milton Tectonidis, a nutrition specialist for Médecins Sans Frontières, said this about Plumpy'nut in an interview here: 'This product, it's beyond opinion; it's documented; it's scientific fact. We've seen it working. With this one product, we can treat three-quarters of children on an outpatient basis.'

Traditional malnutrition therapy hospitalizes children, nursing them to health with steady infusions of vitamin-laced milk. Then they are sent home with powdered milk formula to complete their recovery. It works well, but milk is costly, must be mixed with water and is prone to spoil. And when mothers prepare the formula with the dirty water all too common in impoverished villages, babies get sick. In comparison, Plumpy'nut - the name melds the words 'plump' and 'peanut' - costs less than the milk formula, has a two-year shelf life and need not be mixed with anything.

Perhaps most revolutionary is that mothers, not doctors, can give it to their toddlers. That not only reduces costs but also frees the doctors to attend to the sickest children, who often suffer from malnutrition as well as diseases like malaria or dysentery. The usual course of treatment is four weeks of Plumpy'nut, costing about $20, along with grain-based food like Unimix, a vitamin-packed flour that can be made into the porridge many Africans eat. But some children return to health in as little as two weeks."


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 8th, 2005 10:46 pm (UTC)
that sounds like something that might be useful with our patients. especially our homeless patients. they get boost now, but 4wks of boost would cost far more that $20.
Aug. 9th, 2005 06:30 am (UTC)
The potential uses for this are staggering. I hope that social service agencies worldwide are getting info on this so they can introduce it to people who need it.
Aug. 9th, 2005 06:14 am (UTC)
Fascinating - this solution is actually taking into account the necessities of poverty. I remember making up something similar for myself - I'd mash peanut butter with skim milk powder, raisins, wheat germ and honey. Then I'd roll it out and slice it - it was rather tasty, if a bit sticky.

Any nut butter would do, too. Tahini is made from sesame seeds which is full of calcium - and it keeps well in the heat - and you'd avoid the whole peanut-allergy thing (although that probably isn't a problem in Africa since the peanut is such a staple there).

As the poster above mentioned, they *should* give this out to homeless people who need nutritional density in their food.

Those meal replacement drinks are crap, imo. I tried them once when I was very busy and had a night class several times a week and needed to be able to eat dinner on the bus. In a weeks I started to have sores on the sides of my mouth. I would have been better off with Plumpynut!
Aug. 9th, 2005 06:37 am (UTC)
"...this solution is actually taking into account the necessities of poverty." And it also allows medical workers to focus on those patients most in need. While mothers can easily provide nutrition to the majority of the children at home and see rapid improvement.
Aug. 10th, 2005 07:42 am (UTC)
Is that for sure, they have less peanut allergies than we do? It's not that people die from so many other things that it goes unnoticed?
Aug. 10th, 2005 07:54 am (UTC)
All I know is that peanuts are used much more extensively in the African diet - but I couldn't tell you offhand if that would be north, south, east or west Africa. I have read that in areas where the peanut is a staple food, there is a higher level of liver disease due to apofloxin (sp?) - a nasty fungus that grows on improperly stored peanuts. I just assumed that fewer people might have nut allergies due to the long history of ingesting them - but that is just speculation on my part.

I did read once that children who have not been breast fed have higher rates of allergies. It is an interesting topic and I'm always trying to find out more about it.
Aug. 10th, 2005 08:14 am (UTC)
It seems entirely feasible.

Breastfeeding is so incredible. There is a company trying to market breastmilk. Of course, some of the hundreds of benefits are lost that way, but it's still better than formula.

Breastfed children do have fewer allergies and asthma. However, this is also effected by how long they are breastfed, how soon other food is introduced, how much and in what order.
Aug. 9th, 2005 11:25 am (UTC)
I just read this article, and thought, someone needs to tell them about plumpy'nut!
Aug. 9th, 2005 12:52 pm (UTC)
That would make too much sense and help too many people. Government (like our workplace) does not operate that way.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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