Monday, February 10, 2014

En Route to Save Lives

When I first heard of Plumpy Nut I was touched by the dedication of the doctors and food processing engineers who came up with this simple yet nutritional 3.2oz packet that will essentially save precious lives. This is wonderful!  Let’s stock up ships and trucks and start saving lives.

Not so easy.

With focus on Somalia, infant and maternal mortality rates are among the worlds highest. The “under five” mortality rate is a staggering 225 per 1,000 live births. The main causes of death are diarrheal diseases, respiratory infections and malaria.  In the living conditions and lack of food for the mothers, they are unable to provide a natural supply of milk for their own babies and that leads to sickness and eventually death.[i]

Plumpy Nut has been introduced to these children’s diet and has immensely decreased mortality under age five, the most vulnerable years.  As of 2011 there were 26 million children in deteriorating health conditions, 2 million children have gotten Plumpy Nut and have moved past the “under five” danger zone.

You may ask, why are only 2 million children getting this magical paste that is effectively saving lives?  In 2005 there was only one factory processing Plumpy Nut.  This factory was located in France owned by  Nutriset. Logistically this was creating a barrier to get the life saving nutrients to children who needed it most.  Once produced, it took at least 8 weeks for Plumpy Nut to arrive at the port of Mombasa.  Faced with paperwork, customs clearance, backlog, and potential disruptions moving past the port to the distribution centers, this delay caused panic for those who had babies battling life and death. 

UNICEF, the world’s biggest buyer of Plumpy Nut worked on motivating manufacturers to open factories in Africa and other countries which needed a steady supply to meet the high demand for Plumpy Nut. In 2010 the first and only factory opened in Niger which has given millions of children a chance at life.  Creating a forecast and planning projections to meet supply for demand is the most important step in the logistical and distribution stage of any product delivery.  With UNICEF’s persistence and the living truths behind Plumpy Nuts effectiveness, decreasing the time from production to distribution saves millions of lives yearly.

I got to a store knowing I will purchase my cold medicine or my son’s allergy medicine, I never worry it will not be available or that I will have to travel for hours to another store hoping to get it. I am lucky. In sensitive cases of distribution for supplies such as Plumpy Nut, why are there so many restrictions and barriers?  Removing the logistical lag has proven to save lives, is there a way to move forward and be more innovative to ensure not only Plumpy Nut but other emergency supplies can be readily made available in a shorter time if not immediately after manufacturing? 


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