The funny sounding nut paste that's saving children's lives in Somalia
August 10th, 2011
09:15 AM ET
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Photo credit: Aminu Abubakar/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is reporting live from Somalia with more on the disturbing hunger situation. "AC360º" is now at 8 and 10 ET weeknights on CNN.

It has a funny sounding name. So funny in fact, that you might be tempted to not take it seriously. It's called Plumpy’Nut.

The kids here in Somalia just call it Plumpy. If you have never heard of it, you probably have never truly been hungry or lived in a country where malnutrition is prevalent. It has been called a magic potion, as big a development as penicillin, and is widely credited with single-handedly lowering mortality rates from famine in Africa.

It is a 92 gram, 500 calorie foil sachet. It has nearly the perfect ingredients for the starving human body: Peanut paste, vegetable oil, milk powder, vitamins and minerals. It is a huge improvement over the way malnourished children were treated during the last major famine in Somalia. Back then, they were treated in therapeutic feeding centers for up to a month with carefully diluted and measured fortified milk formulas. It was labor intensive and too many kids still died.

With Plumpy’nut, invented by pediatrician André Briend in 1996 and manufactured and marketed by France's Nutriset, the feedings were exponentially easier. Kids could take their feedings at home, the cost was decreased, and perhaps most importantly for little kids: it tasted good. Briend had, in fact, drawn his inspiration from another delicious, kid-friendly product with a pretty comical sounding name – Nutella.

According to the UN, a child dies every five seconds because of hunger – more than AIDS, TB and malaria combined. The condition of starvation is just as easy to get as it is tricky to treat. Provide a food too rich or high in saturated fats, and the child may not absorb it across their intestines. High calorie chocolate bars were thought to be a viable alternative, until they actually were tried in Eastern Africa, where they wilted and melted.

A paste: that was the solution. It would store easily and be rich in protein and energy. And, there started the creation of a revolution in nutrition.

Read Humanitarian agency accelerates efforts to fight hunger in Africa and visit Impact Your World and learn how you can help

Previously - "Feed the world's children. This, we should be able to do."

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Filed under: Charity • Health News • Hunger

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Dina

    I am happy that someone came up with a viable solution to help kids who are starving now. Politics and cultural shifts take decades or centuries, but at least the kid that hasn't eaten for two days can get some nutrition from this paste. It is a small step, but this is a positive step.

    September 8, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  2. SophieCat

    People don't starve to death because there is no food – people starve to death because of POLITICS. Every year, tons of food supplies are hijacked and re-routed for sale by terrorists. TENS OF TONS of pallets of food products lie rotting in the sun on docks and in warehouses because of poor or non-existent distribution plans.

    Terrorists lie in wait along roadways and distribution routes – when the trucks stop to re-fuel or to unload their cargo, the terrorists swoop in, scatter the refugees and drivers and food workers with gunfire, hijack the truck and take off with the food.

    This happens every day in countries where civil unrest is a way of life.

    We have PLENTY of food on this planet – but witholding food from those who need it the most is a power game played by those who DO NOT CARE ABOUT THE LIFE OF A CHILD WHO WILL LIVE AND DIE IN POVERTY.

    August 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  3. Baxter

    I bet that stuff tastes horrible. No thanks...I'll stick with Cheese Nips.

    August 14, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  4. pearl

    Someone needs to get a serious birth control program going over there. Until those people get educated and change their culture to act responsibly when it comes to having children, then it will continue to be a lose-lose situation. Providing a child a couple of meals is merely a bandaid solution. Sending money for food is like flushing your money down the drain. After you give a child a couple of meals, then what?

    August 13, 2011 at 3:24 am |
    • Ozzi

      If they don't have access to food, they don't have access to birth control.

      Many of the children you see are the result of rape as well. This is a war zone.

      August 20, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  5. blabla

    So un-PC to say, but I wonder how many of these kids will grow up to be pirates or jihadists?

    August 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Baxter

      Or will be picked up by Spanish colonists and taken to the new world...

      August 14, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • SophieCat

      The majority of them do not live past the age of five.

      August 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm |

    Please help by clicking the "LIKE" button on our page on FACEBOOK. (copy and paste this link):!/pages/Somalia-Famine-Call-to-Action/144650028952861

    August 12, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  7. jenjens

    What an ache in my heart I have for the Somalia people. I believe most people want to help although it is such a huge crisis it is overwhelming. Can someone help me understand why they continue to having children only for them to suffer & die?When you multiply each female by 9 children??? Yes I continue to financially & prayerfully support the cause.

    August 11, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • Avarren

      They have 9 children per family because they know quite well most of them won't survive their childhood.

      August 12, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  8. LibertySpins

    It has only taken us a century to develop something simple to save lives when starvation is the problem. How long will it take for humanity to solve the diilemas of war: the destruction of farmland, grazing animals, and people?

    August 11, 2011 at 3:29 am |
    • Once And For All

      As long as we keep politicians in office who believe that war is the answer to anything, the "dilemmas" will never be solved.

      August 11, 2011 at 7:39 am |
    • Matt

      Interesting that as the dominant species on this planet we do the most damage to it and to each other.

      August 11, 2011 at 7:45 am |
      • MalaDee@Matt

        Sadly as the dominant species, we can also be the most self-centered & callous. If we lived as the animals did, off the land to survive and perpetuate the species, the survivors would treat the planet much differently. But then those survivors would be a different type of person than the types of people who rule the world today.

        August 11, 2011 at 8:01 am |
      • Baxter

        Vampires are far superior to humans.

        August 14, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
      • Ozzi

        The survivor's would not be much different. There is no magic button to automatically make us peaceful.

        Even you are not peaceful.

        August 20, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • SophieCat

      Why don't you dig into the finances of your state representatives and find out for yourself how many of them are getting rich from war? As long as men can line their pockets from the profits of war it won't EVER stop.

      War is a money-making business. If there isn't a war, a war will be created. Making weapons and bio-weapons is tremendously profitable.

      It's a lot mroe profitable to make weapons than it is to feed little children.

      As long as men are more interested in profits than feeding little children this will not EVER stop.

      August 17, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  9. Lost

    A crisis such as this thrives in societies where women have little value or presence in political and cultural decision making.

    August 11, 2011 at 1:45 am |
  10. Sam

    I wish I can help ... I donated to – I wish I can do more...

    August 10, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  11. Multi-Tasking @ Work

    I pray for these starving people...

    August 10, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
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