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UN chick pea vitamin paste battling malnutrition in Pakistan

By Shane Starling , 22-Feb-2011
Last updated on 22-Feb-2011 at 22:40 GMT

A vitamin and nutrient-rich chick pea paste developed by United Nations scientists is helping in the fight against infant malnutrition in Pakistan.

The problem increased dramatically last year as flood waters ravaged large parts of the country, prompting researchers at the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) to try and develop local solutions.

They came up with ‘Wawa Mum’ (literally ‘good food mum’) – a 50g mineral and vitamin-fortified paste meeting a host of daily nutrient requirements and derived from locally-sourced chick peas.

“Wawa Mum has a number of advantages during emergency situations like the floods in Pakistan,” said Dominique Frankefort, deputy director of WFP’s operations in Pakistan. “It’s light, you can eat it immediately and it’s made right here in Pakistan from an ingredient that people know and like.”

Wawa Mum is being manufactured in three factories processing 200 tonnes per month which is enough for four million sachets of the paste.

“We hope to raise that number to 500 metric tons by June and to 1000 tonnes by the end of the year. In order to do that, we’ll be contracting two more factories between now and December.”

Aid faster, cheaper

Frankefort said the paste offered nutrition-providing potential beyond that of traditional humanitarian aid routes.

“At the onset of emergencies, we often have problem getting as much of these products as we need,” said Frankefort. “They’re also expensive and have to be shipped, which adds to the cost and to the amount it takes to get them where they’re needed.”

“The other ready-to-eat foods (RTFs) we use are mostly peanut pastes. So it occurred to me that if we could find a similar ingredient more available in places like India and Pakistan, then we could develop our own product right where we needed it.”

Because the chick pea is local and in abundant supply, it is also 10 per cent cheaper than other RTFs developed by the WFP.

Chick pea is popular in Pakistan and other Asian countries where it is the base of dishes like chana masala and humus.

Other WFP nutrition solutions include fortified powder blends derived from cereals, soya, beans and pulses; tubs and sachets derived from vegetable fat, dry skimmed milk, malt dextrin, sugar and whey; high energy biscuits; micronutrient powders containing 16 vitamins and minerals, and fortified compressed food bars.

A video about Wawa Mum can be found here.

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