Saving lives, a world away
Barrington woman's nonprofit has impacted the lives of 1.6 million malnourished children — and counting
There's a saying that goes, "If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life." As ideal as that is, the people at Edesia, a Providence-based 501©3 non-profit manufacturer, can probably take that to a whole new level: what they love to do, just might save the world.
Navyn Salem, a Barrington resident and mother of four, is the driving force behind Edesia. Three generations of her family hail from Tanzania, an African nation with a relatively high rate of childhood malnutrition. With a background in business, Navyn saw an opportunity to work towards a solution to a global health crisis, while at the same time attacking the unemployment that is at the root of poverty.
And there was a personal angle as well. "My daughters have inspired me to want to take on this work, as our focus is on the most vulnerable women and children," says Navyn.
So she partnered with Nutriset, a French company that developed the formula for Plumpy'Nut, a peanut-based ready-to-use therapeutic food that treats severe malnutrition in young children. Navyn opened her Tanzania factory, Power Foods, in 2007, and not long after, it was turning out thousands and thousands of packets of Nutriset's remarkable nutrition product and distributing it throughout the region.
Plumpy'Nut has revolutionized the treatment of malnutrition because it requires no cooking, no refrigeration, is not dependent on a water supply, has a two year shelf-life, and can be given to severely malnourished children for treatment at home.
And it works. During a crisis in Niger in 2005, some 60,000 children received therapeutic treatment with Plumpy'Nut. More than 90 percent recovered.
Power foods was just the beginning. "I knew there was demand for these scientifically proven nutrition solutions from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) but there were no US suppliers to fill the needs," Navyn said. (Federal law requires USAID to use only US-sourced products.) "This factor, as well as research and development opportunities, could be worked on more easily from Providence than Tanzania." So Navyn opened another factory, here at home. Edesia Global Nutition Solutions was born in 2009, and in March 2010, the first sachet of Plumpy’Nut came off the production line.
Plumpy'Nut, which is produced in several locations throughout the developing world, has become the gold standard for treatment of severe malnutrition. But Edesia also produces Plumpy’Sup, Plumpy’Doz, and Nutributter to treat moderate malnutrition and stunting, the most mild form of malnutrition.
Since opening their doors just over four years ago, Edesia has reached 1.6 million malnourished children in 36 countries.
Edesia's efforts have been primarily focused on Latin America and West Africa and has responded to humanitarian disasters, including the earthquake in Haiti, floods in Pakistan, the famine in the Horn of Africa, the drought in the Sahel, and recent crises in Syria and Mali. Today, with famine imminent, the Sudan is once again on Edesia's radar. But in order to meet demand, their manufacturing facility needs to grow — fast.
They are looking to expand their 15,000 square-foot facility to 85,000 feet, and double their labor force. And they want to break ground by labor day. "We must continue to have the capacity, the funding, the energy and the political will to ensure that children do not continue to die from something as basic as malnutrition," says Navyn.
To learn more about Edesia, and help them continue their important work, visit www.edesiaglobal.org.