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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."


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.


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