Promising Initiative Pilots Prevention in Kenya

New project distributes Plumpy’doz to help at-risk children weather the hungry season.
A food distribution center in Kenya. Photo courtesy: J. Phelan.

This February, thanks in part to generous grants from the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund and the Starr International Foundation, Action Against Hunger launched a new initiative to prevent severe acute malnutrition in the Mandera District of northeastern Kenya. This remote, arid region struggles with a seasonal and often devastating “hunger gap” that begins in May and causes malnutrition rates to spike well beyond crisis levels. As a result, the lives of thousands of young children are jeopardized every year. And this remains true even for those children whose diet may provide sufficient caloric intake but fails to supply the essential nutrients necessary for growth and healthy development.

To reduce the need for treatment and protect these young children when their rapidly developing bodies are most fragile, we are distributing Plumpy’doz to approximately 5,000 children between the ages of 6 months and two years. Distributions will take place over a period of six months, ensuring that children have the necessary nutrients during the “hunger gap,” when the poor quality and limited diversity of food might otherwise result in severe acute malnourishment.

Throughout the project, a research team will gather and analyze data from the communities participating in the program, along with comparable data from a carefully selected control group. The implementation protocols have been developed with help from Tufts University, the Kenyan Medical Research Institute, and Kenya’s Ministry of Health.

Plumpy'doz: Ready-to-Use-Foods & the Promise of Prevention

"Strategic use of Ready-to-Use-Foods can prevent children with moderate acute malnutrition from becoming severe acute cases." —Marie-Sophie Simon, Senior Nutrition Advisor, Action Against Hunger

A range of Ready-to-Use-Foods (RUFs) are now available for tackling seasonal hunger

Over the past decade, micronutrient-dense Ready-to-Use-Foods (RUFs) have become indispensable in the treatment of acute malnutrition. RUFs contain a full complement of essential nutrients, require no refrigeration, and are easy to store. In Mandera, northeast Kenya, we're using a product called Plumpy'doz. Similar to the treatment-strength Plumpy'nut but with lower dosage and fewer calories, Plumpy'doz is primarily composed of vegetable fat and peanut paste fortified with 20 vitamins and minerals.