Before Plumpy’nut was introduced to Haiti, there was “Medika Mamba.” Mamba, peanut butter in Creole, was the locally produced RUTF (ready-to-use-therapeutic food) already being used to treat severely malnourished Haitian children. However, when Haiti was ravaged by the devastating January earthquake, international aid organizations rushed to purchase Plumpy’nut, the “gold standard” RUTF rather than purchase locally produced foods. Meds & Foods for Kids (MFK), a US based nonprofit organization, was already actively producing Medika Mamba, but found their small nonprofit struggling to compete with major aid organizations after the earthquake. In order to continue their lifesaving work, MFK joined forces with Nutriset, Plumpy’nut’s manufacturer.
Rather than importing RUTF, MFK opts to be a locally-sustained organization. Despite unreliable electricity and infrastructure, MFK creates its own Medika Mamba. While Plumpy’nut comes in single serving packets, Medika Mamba is distributed in bags that cost about $6 to produce and provide a child with a week’s worth of nourishment. Their product is distributed through partnerships with 20 Haitian health clinics. As MFK states, their bottom line equates to “better futures.” To date, MFK has helped over 10,000 Haitian children realize a better life and future!
Though MFK is US-based, every package of Medika Mamba is created in Haiti using local ingredients and employees. However, as stated by the UN’s report on Medika Mamba and MFK’s Project Director Tom Stehl, using local ingredients sometimes presents a challenge. Some peanuts are contaminated with aflatoxin, a fungus that can lead to liver cancer. However, MFK relies on local employees and lab tests to weed out contaminated peanuts. Currently, MFK is working with Haitian farmers to develop aflatoxin-free peanuts.
By focusing production locally, MFK is boosting Haitian employment, fostering smarter agricultural practices, and educating local healthcare providers. While Medika Mamba, like Plumpy’nut, is a short-term solution, the results of boosting a local economy in a developing country are certainly not!
“A Tremor for Haiti’s Aid Industry” – Foreign Policy http://honr.it/s7
Meds & Foods for Kids http://mfkhaiti.org/