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Ethiopia: Saving malnourished children with Plumpy'nut

27 Jan 2012


2011, Ethiopia: People wait for water to be brought in by truck in a village that has had no rain for 16 months. Credit: OCHA
Humanitarian Response Fund helps local health authorities provide emergency food while people wait for the harvest

Zara Ahmed is worried. The youngest of her seven children, 10-month-old Nayle Kelifa, has not been eating well, and has lost a lot of weight.

Drought has come to Zara’s village, Fedis, and is delaying the production of corn, peanuts, cabbage and potatoes. She would buy food from the market instead, but prices are going up, and she cannot afford enough to feed her family.

Zara’s fears are confirmed at her local health centre—Nayle is severely malnourished.

“At this time there should be harvests. We wouldn’t have so many children; they would have food to eat,” says Lemlem Worku, a health worker at Belina Arba health post, in eastern Ethiopia’s Oromia region. “This year it started to rain late, and none of their crops are ready.”

Responding to the crisis, the Humanitarian Response Fund (HRF), managed by OCHA, has given US$6.5 million to UNICEF to help feed people in villages like Fedis.

The funding allows the zone’s health headquarters to send boxes of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), like Plumpy'nut, to be used in Outpatient Therapeutic Feeding Programmes.
Plumpy'nut is a highly nutritious peanut-based paste in a plastic wrapper, which requires no water, preparation, or refrigeration—an essential weapon in the fight against hunger, which is gripping an increasing number of districts across Ethiopia.

The HRF this year has allocated $52.8 million to help hundreds of thousands of people cope with the effects of drought, disease and malnutrition.

Nayle weighed only 4.8 kg on her first visit to the health post, but she has a good appetite—meaning her chances of recovery are good. She will be discharged when she reaches 5.5 kg. Before leaving the health post, Lemlem gives Zara a bottle of amoxicillin antibiotics and a week’s supply of Plumpy'nut.

“I brought my daughter here because I want her to be healthy,” said Zara. “I was very worried about her. Today Lemlem has given me medicine for Nayle and these packets of nutritious food. I believe they will save my baby.”

“We have been receiving adequate supplies of ready-to-use-therapeutic food, so we are able to treat all the malnourished children that we admit. It is very rewarding work,” said Lemlem. “When I see a starving child get better and come back to life, I feel blessed, as though the children themselves have said a prayer for me.”

“I also pray for these children. They will achieve something in the future, and so I would like to thank those who have made it possible for us to save their lives.”

More >> Humanitarian Response Fund  -  Horn of Africa crisis page