Medical Screenings, Clean Water, and Plumpy'nut

Lifesaving Priorities for Famine-Stricken Horn of Africa

This is not the column I had planned. I do not have a plate of delicious food for you to look at, nor recipes to try. My appetite and energy for cooking are not here today. As I write this, half a million children are starving, or near death, across the northeast Horn of Africa in the countries of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. While conditions such as drought (the worst in 60 years), armed conflict and rising food costs may have forecasted the catastrophic famine that exists, few could have predicted the death of 29,000 children, in southern Somalia alone, in the past 90 days. Without our immediate support, more deaths will needlessly occur as emergency relief supplies run out, perhaps as soon as September. That relief, which comes in the form of medical screenings, clean water and nourishment, includes Plumpy’nut®, a lifesaving ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), created in 1999 by French scientist and pediatrician André Briend. Produced  by Nutriset, a private French company, Plumpy’nut is formulated, in part, with a paste made of peanuts, powdered skim milk, sugar and a substantial amount of vitamins and minerals. Having proved its intended purpose for renourishing starving children, Plumpy’nut has won the approval of organizations such as the United Nations International Emergency Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) for treating severe acute malnutrition and significantly lowering the mortality rates of victims caught in the misery of famine. I trust these organizations to do the most with the donations they desperately need, and you can, too. Donation information for some of the most trustworthy international relief agencies on the planet include the ones listed here. Thank you for considering sending something, anything – no matter how little – today.


Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at

What is severe acute malnutrition?

In developing countries, around 26 million children (under five years of age) suffer from severe acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF estimates. This can take several forms – marasmus (severe emaciation), kwashiorkor (oedematous malnutrition), or mixed forms. Severe acute malnutrition is the stage of malnutrition where the risk of child mortality is the highest.

The world’s largest refugee camp

Displaced women and children predominately inhabit the world’s largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Of that population, 80 percent are severely malnourished children, with much weakened immune systems. If treated in time, a child can be renourished with the help of medical screenings, clean water and  daily doses of Plumpy’nut. In an effort to protect children and help prevent the spread of disease, UNICEF, the Kenya Ministry of Health  and WHO have initiated a massive vaccination campaign in the Dadaab refugee camp region.

With a burgeoning population of more than 400,000 displaced persons (mostly women and children), in a place designed to hold 90,000, the emergency shelter in Dadaab, Kenya has become the world’s largest refugee camp. While the opening of an extension camp (Kambioos) is hoped to provide relief to the overcrowded conditions at Dadaab, the influx of up to 2,000 additional refugees to the area are likely to make things worse instead of better. Traveling for days, even weeks to get to the camp, refugees arrive weak and exhausted, many near death. Some have been robbed of what little possessions they had, or left traumatized by sexual assaults.  And, others would  remain gripped  by the grief of leaving family behind, or losing a loved along the journey, were it not for the needs of their other children.  Disturbing, as well, are reports of the number of refugees in the camp with mental disorders, which, if left untreated, makes them a danger not only to themselves, but to those around them. For a moving  peek  inside the Dadaab refugee camp, view  World Food Programme’s YouTube video, at

About Plumpy’nut

Information source: Nutriset

Photo credits: © Michaël Zumstein /Agence Vu’. These photographs were shot at St-Camille Hospital in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and illustrate the use of Plumpy’nut®, Plumpy’doz® and ZinCfan®.

World Vision,, 1-888-511-6593

UNICEF,, 1-800-367-5437

Doctors without Borders, www.doctorswithoutborders.
com, 1-888-392-0392

Save the Children,, 1-800-728-3843

World Food Programme,