Project Peanut Butter is a Malawi-based nonprofit organization founded by Dr. Mark Manary in 1999. Since its founding, Project Peanut Butter has provided home-based malnutrition therapeutic care to hundreds of thousands of children in Malawi. By providing ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), which in Malawi is referred to as Chiponde, at health clinics, Project Peanut Butter continues to be one of the frontrunners in treating acute childhood malnutrition. Project Peanut Butter has expanded their relief efforts to Sierra Leone. After reading about this organization below, consider donating to their RUTF production in Sierra Leone.
Can you explain why Project Peanut Butter adopted the home-based therapy program to treat malnutrition? How does this program work?
Project Peanut Butter’s home-based therapy program is an answer to inpatient programs for malnourished children in Malawi that found poor recovery rates. There are many benefits to home-based therapy: children who do not need to be hospitalized can be treated at home, mothers who are subsistence farmers spend less time in hospitals while their child is being treated, and children treated outside of the hospital are not at risk to get nosocomial infections (infections spread from other patients inside the hospital). The recovery rate for severely malnourished children in home-based therapy is about 90%.
The program works by enrolling children who are severely malnourished as characterized by their weight and height. In general, children who look sick or especially thin are referred by a village health worker to a malnutrition clinic, the children are screened on a set of enrollment criteria, and if they are malnourished, they begin a 6- or 8-week program (on average) for nutritional rehabilitation.
Is Chiponde the same thing as Plumpy’nut? If there are any differences, can you explain them?
“Chiponde” is the local name for the same, peanut butter-based therapeutic food, literally meaning “paste” or “peanut butter” in Chichewa, the language spoken by Malawians. Scientifically, we refer to Chiponde or Plumpy’nut as Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF). There are other names for RUTF: in Sierra Leone the product is colloquially referred to as “kakatuwa,” which means something that is especially effective or potent.
What are the benefits of using Chiponde at Project Peanut Butter’s nutrition centers?
Chiponde, or RUTF is a high-energy, high-protein therapeutic food with a full set of vitamins and minerals. Chiponde is peanut butter-based and does not spoil, does not require cooking or processing, and does not need to be refrigerated. Most children eat chiponde straight from a jar or foil envelope or are fed by their mothers.
In July of 2007, several groups in the United Nations including the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) published a joint statement establishing home-based therapy with RUTF as the best way to treat children with severe malnutrition who do not need to be hospitalized.
Children are given an amount of RUTF chiponde that is proportional to their weight, and the child’s mother is told to bring the child back in two weeks for observation of the child’s progress. The treatment is simple and takes only minimal intervention; we want the program to be as easy and accessible to children as possible.
How does Project Peanut Butter integrate itself with the local communities where Chiponde is produced?
Project Peanut Butter is a thoroughly local program; all of the malnutrition clinics operated by PPB are assisted by village health workers or “Health Surveillance Assistants” (HSAs) who are government employees. Additionally, PPB partners with the Malawian government hospitals who have their own malnutrition clinics all over Southern Malawi, and all of the Chiponde is produced locally in Blantyre, Malawi by an all-Malawian staff with Malawian ingredients.
Does Project Peanut Butter use any other Plumpy products (Supplementary’Plumpy, Plumpy’doz, Nutributter, Plumpy’soy)?
Project Peanut Butter, which also does extensive research about malnutrition and related diseases, is currently using Supplementary’Plumpy (a.k.a. “Supply”) in a study about moderate malnutrition. Some of these products produced by Nutriset were researched by our staff.
Can you explain Project Peanut Butter’s collaboration with Nutriset and Andre Briend?
The product RUTF and the home-based therapy program are both a result of the work from three entities: researcher Andre Briend who proposed the product, physician Dr. Mark Manary (PPB’s director) who field tested RUTF in Malawi, and the first large-scale producer of RUTF, Nutriset in the South of France.
All three parties are extensively involved today in the fight against childhood malnutrition through research, international aid work, and RUTF production.
How many children has Project Peanut Butter treated at its clinics and sites? How successful has Chiponde been in Project Peanut Butter’s work to fight childhood malnutrition?
In 2009, the PPB factory in Malawi produced about 650 metric tons of Plumpy’nut, which is enough to treat between 40,000 and 45,000 severely malnourished children. In 2010, Project Peanut Butter will produce between 800 and 1,000 metric tons of Plumpy’nut, which is enough to treat somewhere between 50,000 and 65,000 severely malnourished children.
Additionally, the PPB factory in Freetown, Sierra Leone started industrial-scale production in April 2009 and has produced food for and helped to treat several thousand children.
What’s next for Project Peanut Butter?
PPB will continue its full-time work with a national program for malnourished children in Malawi. Additionally, the production facility in Sierra Leone will expand its capacity this year, and finally an investigation is being made by PPB employees to start a new project in the country of Mali.
This summer we also began a new chapter for PPB, supporting the work of the Little Sisters of Charity and the Sons of Divine Providence in Payatas, Phillipines in treating malnutrition among slum dwellers with tuberculosis. This cooperative venture combines medicinal and nutritonal care for these patients. We are open to continuing this relationship.
Are there any stories about specific children who were saved by Chiponde that you would like to share?
There are many stories about the hard work and dedication of the people we work with in Malawi in Sierra Leone, and at least one story for every child that we treat. All of the stories point to the same goal of helping children who are malnourished who would otherwise not be helped.
What should readers do if they would like to donate to Project Peanut Butter?
They can mail a check or money order to the PPB headquarters at:
Project Peanut Butter
7435 Flora Avenue
Maplewood, MO 63143
Or donate online at www.projectpeanutbutter.org