Plumpynut revolutionized the treatment of acutely malnourished children. In Haiti, Partners in Health (PIH) has produced a local variant, Nourimamba, since 2007. The Abbot pharmaceutical company is working closely with PIH to further improve Nourimamba and to expand production. The opening of a factory is scheduled for end 2012. This is good news for malnourished children, the health care providers who treat them, and the farmers who produce the ingredients for Nourimamba. An article by New York Times writer Duff Wilson on the PIH/Abbot partnership follows.
Plumpynut, a peanut based paste, has revolutionalized the way in which severely malnourished children around the world are treated. Many young lives have been saved as a result. There is now increasing attention on how Plumpynut variants can prevent children from becoming malnourished in the first place. In Haiti, both Meds and Food for Kids (MFK) and Partners in Health (PIH) produce products similar to Plumpynut. In the below New York Times article, Andrew Rice describes the promise, politics, and profitability of Plumpynut. Considering the negative impact that malnutrition has on the health and cognitive development of children in Haiti, it is well worth a read.
When people think of Haiti, they often think of hunger, and not without reason. Though there has been significant progress over the past year, hunger remains a pervasive problem. Achieving food security is fundamental to nutrition, health, education, economic growth, stability and all the other issues we lump under “development.” There are well intentioned groups, such as this one from Kansas, that often try to send packages of food to Haiti. It might make one feel good, but in reality, it does little good. There is much that we can do to promote food security in Haiti, but it is up to us to ensure that our time, energy, and resources make an actual, and not just a perceived, difference.
Strong arguments can be made that sacking Prime Minister Pierre-Louis was a mistake. Still, she served Haiti well prior to becoming Prime Minister and will no doubt continue to do so. Jean Max Bellerive has since been confirmed as the new Prime Minister. He has stated the increasing foreign investment and reducing poverty will be amongst his highest priorities. He has a much different style than Pierre-Louis, but faces the same challenges. This includes promoting food security thoughout Haiti.
I sometimes see articles in small town newspapers about churches or schools sending food to Haiti. The intention is good, but the impact is not - this is not how to promote food security. Project Medishare takes a different approach by fighting hunger, creating jobs, and supporting the local economy at the same time. Its Akamil factory, once operational, will produce fortified and highly nutritious food, from locally purchased ingredients, for malnourished children, pregnant women, and people living with tuberculosis and/or HIV/AIDS. My hope is that this facility will be the first of many. If you'd like to support this important effort, a link to Project Medishare's project fund-raising site is below.
Here's the good news - the first hurricane of 2009 passed on by. The bad news is that we've got a long way to go until hurricane season is over. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that there will be seven to eleven named storms in the Atlantic before the end of November, with the potential for three to six hurricanes. As we saw last year, tropical storms can wreck havoc on both crops and infrastructure. Humanitarian responders are gearing up.
The past month has been important for Haiti. The World Bank, IMF, and the IDB forgave $1.2 billion of Haiti’s debt. Deals were reached with members of the Paris Club to cancel an additional $152 million in debt. Bill Clinton made his first trip to Haiti as UN Special Envoy. Plus, discussions at the G8 Summit indicated we may be on the verge of a historic shift in how food assistance is delivered, to the benefit of Haiti and other food insecure countries.
It has been a busy month for Haiti. The Donors Conference turned out reasonably well. At the Summit of the Americas meeting, members of the Organisation of American States (OAS) expressed their willingness to offer long-term support to Haiti. OAS Secretary General José Miguel welcomed the focus on Haiti, noted that the Haitian government drafted a plan on how the international community can help. As he put it, 'Now you know exactly what you have to support…I think things are really going to begin to happen for Haiti.'' We hope so as well.
President Obama is in the United Kingdom this week as part of the G20 Summit. As Nicholas Kristof wrote an op-ed, more is at stake than banks. According to World Bank estimates, the global economic crisis will cause an additional 22 children to die per hour, throughout all of 2009. Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank, stated, “In London, Washington and Paris, people talk of bonuses or no bonuses...In parts of Africa, South Asia and Latin America, the struggle is for food or no food.”
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is very active in Haiti, particularly in the sectors of water/sanitation and nutrition. UNICEF recently released their annual Humanitarian Action Report. It is intended for donors, but if you are interested in knowing what UNICEF did in Haiti during 2008 and seeks to accomplish in 2009, this is a good place to start. The Haiti section is copied below.