The way we treat malnutrition has changed a lot during my career. Today we often use Plumpy’nut, a protein-packed peanut paste with added calories and vitamins, specially formulated to nourish starving children and save their lives. I have seen firsthand how tiny and fragile children can quickly reach a healthy weight after intensive feeding with Plumpy’nut.
About the author: Caroline Kanaiza Swahili, one of CAFOD’s Senior Emergency Response Officers based in Nairobi, speaks of her experience of the projects that help children and families affected by malnutrition.
Before Plumpy’nut became popular, we sometimes used “formula” products, which took much longer to be effective. With Plumpy’nut, the child can show remarkable improvement within 2-3 weeks unless they have other underlying medical issues.
This Advent you can give the gift of hope
Help us be there for malnourished children when food is scarce.
There are several reasons for Plumpy’nut’s effectiveness. Firstly it has a low risk of contamination. Other treatments require preparation, usually by the mother, and then need to given to the child using a bowl or cup or a spoon, which creates a high risk of contamination. With Plumpy’nut, the child can be fed directly from the packet. It is hygienically very sound.
Secondly it doesn’t require any preparation making it very easy for mothers to adhere to feeding schedule that ultimately facilitate quick recovery. Previous treatments required mothers to spend a significant amount of time preparing the treatment. With Plumpy’nut there is no cooking, washing and preparation and therefore it facilitates a quick recovery.
Thirdly, few children have to stay at the feeding centres. After being assessed, children are usually sent home with a week’s worth of Plumpy’nut and come back a week later to be assessed again. That means that parents can return home and look after their other children – and earn a living. Before, mothers would sometimes stay at the centre for a few weeks with the malnourished child, and the family’s other children would suffer.
can help us get a month’s supply of Plumpy’nut to a child
suffering from malnutrition.
can equip breastfeeding mothers with the
skills necessary prevent the spread of diseases.
can deliver food and medical care to
malnourished children and their families.
can buy the essential follow-on medicine for children
discharged from the feeding centre.
can pay the monthly salary of a nurse
at a nutrition centre.
The side effects of malnutrition include a lack of appetite, energy and motivation. It can be very difficult to feed children who are malnourished – so treatment needs to be made as easy as possible. The peanut base for Plumpy’nut is very important because it is a taste that children are familiar with, as pulses and other nuts and seeds form part of their normal diet. In the past high energy biscuits have been rejected by children as they were unfamiliar – but children are usually comfortable eating Plumpy’nut.
The Plumpy’nut portions are quite small and dense, so only a little is needed. One portion accounts for nearly a whole meal and is much quicker to administer than a bowl of porridge, which can take 15 minutes. This is important as a child who is severely malnourished needs the nutrients immediately.
CAFOD and our partners recognise the importance of child care practises that stem out from malnutrition. In addition to provision of plumpy’nut , all primary caregivers to malnourished children are provided with nutrition, health and hygiene education. It focuses on the appropriate infant and young children feeding practices, in order to overcome some of the major causes of malnutrition in developing countries.
We also work with our partners to help ensure that families who are vulnerable have the opportunity to lift themselves from poverty. Treating malnutrition is important, but of course we ultimately want people to overcome poverty and earn a living, because that way they can feed themselves.
CAFOD’s Advent Appeal 2012: http://www.cafod.org.uk/Advent