As Part One of an ongoing series highlighting humanitarian organizations implementing Plumpy’nut in their relief efforts, Plumpy’nut Press had the opportunity to learn from Susannah Masur, Communications Officer of Action Against Hunger. Action Against Hunger has served as a leader in the fight against malnutrition for over 30 years and even played a major role in developing early protocols for using Plumpy’nut to treat severely malnourished children. Currently, Action Against Hunger | ACF International runs nutrition programs in over 40 countries around the world. Read on to learn more about Action Against Hunger’s innovative and lifesaving work!
What are the benefits of using Plumpy’nut at Action Against Hunger’s nutrition centers?
Plumpy’nut requires no preparation, no dilution (avoiding dirty water), no refrigeration, has a long shelf-life, can be stored anywhere, and allows us to scale up the reach and impact of our outpatient nutrition programs. Coupled with sound community-based care protocols, the use of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTFs) like Plumpy’nut can be scaled up to reach the millions of children suffering from acute malnutrition before they start developing medical complications that may compromise their recovery.
Can you describe how a child is diagnosed with severe malnutrition?
Action Against Hunger trains health workers at the community-level to diagnose acute malnutrition by measuring a child’s height and weight and recognizing symptoms of the condition, including edema, which is an accumulation of liquid in the limbs. They also measure a child’s Middle Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC). Anything less than 12 centimeters is a sign of acute malnutrition.
Following a diagnosis of severe malnutrition, what treatment does the child undergo?
Volunteer village health teams trained by Action Against Hunger refer affected children for outpatient treatment with Plumpy’nut, or if they have severe medical or nutritional complications, to therapeutic Stabilization Centers for around-the-clock medical care. In these cases, children are often fed therapeutic milk formula until they are able to digest Plumpy’nut. In both outpatient and inpatient centers, staff members discuss the children’s progress with their parents and teach them basic nutrition and hygiene practices to improve their health. Action Against Hunger provides technical and organizational training for the centers’ staff, equipment and therapeutic nutritional products like Plumpy’nut, as well as financial support for badly underfunded hospitals and health centers to purchase medicine and other essentials.
Prior to the implementation of Plumpy’nut, how did Action Against Hunger treat severe malnutrition?
Prior to the advent of ready-to-use products like Plumpy’nut, the humanitarian community relied on other life-saving products. In the early 1990s, Action Against Hunger’s Scientific Committee developed two revolutionary therapeutic milk formulas, F-75 and F-100, that reduced mortality rates by 75% among children in treatment for severe acute malnutrition. Unpatented and field-tested by Action Against Hunger, these nutrition products and their protocols were later adopted by the UN’s World Health Organization as the industry standard.
These therapeutic milk formulas were effective, but required intensive, around-the-clock like care: severely malnourished children had to stay in the hospital for weeks or even longer while being treated. A parent or caretaker was required to stay with them, keeping them away from the rest of the family, their jobs, and their other household duties. And, some parents were forced to stop their children’s treatment because they could not stay at the hospital with them.
Now, because of Plumpy’nut and community-based programs, malnourished children can visit outpatient centers once a week to get a medical check-up, be weighed and measured, and receive Plumpy’nut to consume at home.
Can you explain why Action Against Hunger adopted the community-based model to treat malnutrition?
The revolutionary nutritional product Plumpy’nut was created by nutritionist André Briend and developed in conjunction with Nutriset. It essentially repackaged the therapeutic F-100 formulation as a more stable peanut butter-based product, making this life-saving formula available without the need for preparation, clean water, or refrigeration. Action Against Hunger helped carry out early field tests to develop protocols for using Plumpy’nut in the treatment of severe acute malnutrition.
Once therapeutic RUFs were developed, community-based models were the logical outcome. Easy to distribute, store, and administer, Plumpy’nut allowed humanitarian actors to experiment with community-based “outpatient” models that provided therapeutic care at home instead of exclusively through “inpatient” programs. Therapeutic RUFs were revolutionary in opening the door to community-based models with their vast potential for scaling up the numbers of malnourished children receiving treatment.
We’ve also adopted this community-based model because it can be sustained over the long-term. We’re working to strengthen local health systems so they can continue to detect and treat acute malnutrition long after we leave an area.
Does Action Against Hunger use any other Plumpy products (Supplementary’Plumpy, Plumpy’doz, Nutributter, Plumpy’soy)?
Yes, we use a range of Ready-to-Use Foods (both therapeutic and supplementary) in the treatment and prevention of acute malnutrition.
How successful has Plumpy’nut been in Action Against Hunger’s work to fight childhood malnutrition?
Extremely successful. RUTFs like Plumpy’nut have truly revolutionized the treatment of acute malnutrition. These new products allow for a massively expanded “outpatient” model of care. No preparation is needed, no mixing with water, no refrigeration. We’re able to reach many more children suffering from acute malnutrition because of these new products.
How do children react to the taste of Plumpy’nut?
By and large, they seem to really like it!
How many children have been treated with Plumpy’nut?
Since 2005, we have treated more than 800,000 people—primarily children—in our outpatient nutrition centers with RUTFs like Plumpy’nut.
Are there any stories about specific children who were saved by Plumpy’nut that you would like to share?
Sure! You can read a couple stories here:
Breaking the Cycle of Hunger: Lomuria’s Story
A Second Chance at Life
What should readers do if they would like to donate to Action Against Hunger?
Donating online is easy:
Learn more about our life-saving programs: www.actionagainsthunger.org