At the foot of an acacia tree in northern Kenya – a region ravaged by drought – children eat with their teeth a paste made from enriched peanut butter, an important therapeutic food to survive they are from malnutrition. Simple to use, easy to carry and store, these bars are essential for young people in Marsabit County, where aid workers are alarmed to see children dying in near-starvation conditions. “If one runs out” these precious foods rich in calories, vitamins and essential minerals, “We will register other deaths soon”feared James Jarso, of the NGO World Vision.
But now the price of this ready-to-use pasta, known by the English acronym RUTF (for Ready to Use Therapeutic Food – “ready to use therapeutic food »), and of which Plumpy’Nut, from French Nutriset, is the most popular brand. Since the start of the war in Ukraine at the end of February, it has become more difficult to produce and obtain it, worries UNICEF, which buys almost 80% of the world’s supply.
Ukraine is a major exporter of sunflower oil, wheat and other grains, and Russia’s invasion of the country has affected the price and availability of commodities, but also weighed on fuel prices and supply chains, which has been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Because of this, the prices of powdered milk, vegetable oil and peanuts – three important components of RUTF – have risen, explained Christiane Rudert, nutrition adviser at UNICEF’s office for West Africa. East. Even red and white plastic bags have become more expensive and scarce, he said, and delivery is more expensive due to rising fuel prices.
Nutriset, whose Plumpy’Nut products benefited 9.7 million children last year, told AFP in a statement that it had made two consecutive price increases for its nutritional bars since May. 2021, an increase of 23%. Unicef predicted a 16% increase in RUTF prices in November, compared to the level before the war in Ukraine.
A revolutionary product
This price increase comes at the worst of times, when more than 1.7 million children under the age of 5 suffer from some form of severe malnutrition in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, three countries hit by drought unprecedented in forty years. Distributing peanut bars costs money “12 million more dollars [environ 11,7 millions d’euros] what would have cost before Ukraine »M is calculatedME Rudert.
However, donations for the Horn of Africa are far below needs. RUTFs, which do not need to be heated or diluted in water to consume, are “It’s literally what saves children’s lives when they’ve reached this advanced form of malnutrition”added M.ME Rudert: “It’s not just peanuts, milk, sugar and oil. It’s therapeutic. »
Developed twenty-five years ago in France, the product has proven to be revolutionary in the treatment of severe wasting – or severe acute malnutrition – the most deadly form of undernutrition, which represents one of the first threat to the survival of children. It allows women and children to live, confirms from a mobile clinic Dr. Mohamed Amin, who works for the Kenyan Ministry of Health and goes twice a month to the hamlet of Purapul (north) for consultations.
There, rations were distributed in supplements equivalent to two weeks. Aripokiru Nakujan is one of the beneficiaries. The youngest of his six children was malnourished. “We are hungry, we have nothing to eat”, he told AFP. Next to her, her 6-month-old baby swallowed the peanut-based paste. A price increase of 16%, or 600,000 less doses of RUTF, could harm not only the Horn of Africa, but many other African countries. “No milk, no meat, no food for them”, insisted James Jarso. And so these bars “save their lives”.
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