Using Plumpy Nut to save lives in the Sahel
25 July, 2012: In the current food and nutrition crisis across the Sahel, Plan and other organisations are working to provide assistance to children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM).
SAM and MAM are quiet killers. They weaken the immune system, render children listless and in pain, slowly shutting down the body. SAM is a slow, painful death. In the past, when children had advanced to the SAM stage, it was often too difficult to save them. However, a relatively “new” product, Plumpy Nut, was recognized by the
United Nations as a suitable treatment for children under 5 with SAM in 2007.
Plumpy nut is a peanut-based paste that also contains essential fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals. It is easy to digest, very high in calories and tasty, which makes it ideal for treating children with SAM whose stomachs have often shrunk. It supports rapid weight gain, and for children, it is easy to eat and feed themselves from the individual plastic-foil packs.
Plumpy nut has a shelf-life of two years and is produced locally in various peanut producing regions of Africa, and available at low costs for health care providers and humanitarian agencies. Known as a Ready to use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), it has revolutionized how SAM and MAM are treated. Children can be given plumpy nut at home by their parents, and not just in the hospital or clinic.
During a food insecurity crisis, the demand for plumpy nut is high because the numbers of children suffering from SAM and MAM are increased. Humanitarian agencies often work together to ensure that the supply chain is not broken as it can mean the loss of life.
In the far north regions of Cameroon where the rates of SAM and MAM are the highest, plumpy nut is truly a lifeline. This week when supplies began to run short at the 11 nutrition centers in Yagoua, it meant that the 692 children there with SAM were at greater risk.
Plan coordinated with UNICEF, the exclusive supplier of plumpy nut to nutrition centers, to facilitate the logistics for delivery to Yagoua. While developing and managing a supply chain is not specifically within Plan’s mandate, caring for and safeguarding children is.
The mission was viewed as critical to save lives and accommodations made. As far as logistic is concerned, it was a challenge to travel 1,116 km over rough road in two days to distribute 350 boxes containing 150 sachets of plumpy nut each. The delivery would provide treatment for 1,250 cases of SAM.
The task was outside the box, but it is what agencies like Plan do when there is urgent need. It’s all worth it, however, when the end results are smiling, sated children.
Read more about the current Sahel food crisis on our appeal page