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August 16th, 2011
03:22 PM ET

Fighting famine, one packet at a time

This is what emergency food aid looks like.

I'm holding a packet of “Plumpy Nut,” a high-calorie peanut-based paste donated by UNICEF for tonight’s News Stream focus on famine relief.

Some 12 million people are facing starvation in Africa today. “Plumpy Nut” is one of many nutrition supplements being used to stave off starvation.

“Plumpy Nut” looks like and tastes much like peanut butter. It’s a nut-based product that contains milk, soy, sugar, minerals and vitamins.

And it hits the top needs of the malnourished - it has a significant calorie count (500 kcal), high-quality protein, and a long shelf life. They’re also sweet so young children are willing to eat it.

A parent can simply tear off a corner of the packet, and feed it to a child straight from the package. Each packet has enough nutrition for an infant, but not enough for a teenager.

It is not a miracle cure. “Plumpy Nut” and other emergency food aid supplements do not address long-term malnutrition.

But it is helping fight the acute famine we’re seeing today in the Horn of Africa, fighting famine one packet at a time.