The Crisis in India


Hunger is felt in the classroom as well

I realized that most, if not all, of my blog entries cover how malnutrition affects sub-Saharan Africa.  However, chronic malnutrition is a crisis that affects every single region of the world.  I recently came across an article that stated, “India has more hungry people – and the highest burden of child malnutrition – than any country in the world.”  In India, nearly half of children under the age of 5 are underweight compared to Nigeria, where only 5% of this population is underweight.  From their day of birth, 30% of children in India are already on the track to suffering from malnutrition as they are born underweight.  By the time they reach five, 44% will be underweight and 48% have stunted growth due to malnutrition.


However, the interesting part is that in my research of Plumpy’nut’s use in India, I learned that in 2009, the Indian government actually blocked UNICEF from distributing Plumpy’nut.  Government officials felt that hot-cooked, locally produced meals were a better alternative to “foreign imported,” nutrient-enriched, ready-to-eat foods.  In an address to the Indian Parliament on June 4, 2009, Dr. Arun Gupta, regional coordinator of International Baby Food Action Network, stated, “Malnutrition has emerged as a major health challenge needing urgent response. Hence the nutrition delivery programme will be comprehensively revamped to bring it under the watch of panchayat institutions and move to provision of hot cooked meals.”

The Indian government asked UNICEF to remove all Plumpy’nut from the country after its distribution began without official approval.  Evidently, UNICEF was following World Health Policy (WHO) guidelines, which support the use of Plumpy’nut, rather than India’s hunger relief protocols. Research shows that Plumpy’nut more effectively treats malnutrition in its most severe stages than feeding a child a hot meal.  In just one week, Plumpy’nut can a malnourished child can gain one to two pounds!  An option to explore would be to produce Plumpy’nut locally in India.  Nutriset, the company that created Plumpy’nut, has been active in promoting local production.  Plumpy’nut has already been recognized as Africa’s miracle food, could it be the saving grace for children in India too?


6 responses to this post.

  1. Dear Elizeabth i could not agree with you more we are actually a small n.go running a free hospital and malnurition unit. if plumpy nut was avaible to us we could cut down our admissions by 60 to 70 % and actully treat better and spend much less money all at the same time. i do wounder about some local production in India.


  2. Posted by Stephen Tomlin on July 22, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    It sounds as if local production of RUFs is the answer, just like the Peanut Butter Project in Malawi and Sierra Leone. India rose so effectively to the local production of ARVs that I am surprised that it hasn’t met the challenge of locally produced RUTFs in the same way. Indians are so renowned for their entrepreneural spirit, I urge leaders in the community to talk to Dr. Mark Manary about his experiences with local production and the Peanut Butter Project in Malawi. Your September 30 2010 on the Peanut Butter Project is just excellent.


    • Thank you for reading!! I was very surprised to see that such a ban on Plumpy’nut was implemented in India. I’ll definitely continue research and reach out to leaders in the field about exploring local production. Project Peanut Butter is certainly an organization to look up to! They’ve done a wonderful job working with community members to develop a product that suits their needs.


  3. Posted by Elizabeth Dahm on October 10, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Elizabeth, do you know if India has reversed its position or developed its own RUTFs yet? I am considering a donation through World Vision but have a particular interest in knowing Indian children have access to this great product.


    • Hi again!

      I have an update for you regarding Plumpy’nut’s use in India. Below is the response from the nutrition director at Concern Worldwide:

      “Yes, the ban on Plumpy’nut is still in place in India, unfortunately. I have checked and confirmed it with UNICEF as well. There is a plan to start the production of Plumpy’nut-like product but this project hasn’t taken off yet.”

      Thanks so much for your interest and please let me know if you’d like more information!


  4. Hi Elizabeth! I’m not sure . . . I haven’t heard of any changes but I will check with the Nutrition Officer from Concern Worldwide to see if any bans have been lifted. Thank you for reading! I’ll be in touch shortly.


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