Project Peanut Butter, a non-profit organization located in St. Louis, MO is trying to save the lives of two million South Asian and African children by 2015. They say 20 million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition and 3.5 million die every year because they don’t have enough to eat.
To save starving children, the non-profit has used a six-week peanut butter therapy that has been reported to have a 95% success rate. Their cost to save a starving child’s life is about $35.
Why Peanut Butter?
Peanuts are a good source of protein and zinc which are both effective in maintaining the functioning of the humane immune system. Without proper nutrition, the immune system will not function normally, “The proactive use of antibiotics is important because the immune system of a child who is severely malnourished can virtually shut down. This lack of immune response means both that the body cannot fight off infection and that tests may not detect infection, even when one is present. Evidence shows that giving a broad spectrum antibiotic such as amoxicillin enables the child’s body to fight off common infections like pneumonia and urinary tract infections which can be fatal to this group of children.” ( Source: WHO issues new guidance for treating children with severe acute malnutrition)
Strictly speaking they use a peanut-based paste, called Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF). It is made of peanuts, vegetable oil, powdered milk, vitamins, minerals and sugar. So to be completely accurate, they are using an enriched peanut paste, not what most American consumers would eat as peanut butter, but it’s very similar.
Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods
Using this peanut-based nutrition has increased starving children’s recovery rates. African mothers living in rural areas that don’t have money but do have a starving child are faced with long walks to populations centers with hospitals for treatment. However, the hospital nutrition treatments for the children have a success rate of 40% or less. Most of the children die or relapse.
Delivering Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods allows mothers to feed their children in the home, so they don’t have to waste time or energy walking long distances and they improve the child’s recovery rate dramatically.
According to the Project Peanut Butter, their nutrition therapy has already saved the lives of 800,000 children. Their plant-based therapy could save many more. Paradoxically, it is a plant-based diet that save many lives in the Western, developed world as well, by decreasing obesity and heart disease.