"A billion people endure and suffer the irreversible effects of hunger and malnutrition," Navyn Salem told me. Salem is the Founder and Executive Director of Edesia, a new nonprofit manufacturing company that produces life-saving Ready-to-Use Foods (RUFs) for people in developing countries. "We have an opportunity to intervene at a young age to reverse this crisis. Edesia has an affordable and accessible solution," she said compellingly and urgently. "With greater awareness and support, spreading this solution is within our reach."
Edesia is an NGO (nongovernmental organization) that has been featured for the past two years at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). "CGI was created to induce action," Marilia Bezerra, Commitments Director, Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) explained to me. NGOs and nonprofits in addition to corporate foundations and other donors come together at CGI’s annual fall conference prepared to make serious commitments of their time, talent, and/or treasure. Beyond the conference — a dizzying, three-day, deal-making affair — much of the action takes place during the other 51 weeks of the year.
Edesia is fulfilling what CGI asks of its members – to devise a practical solution to a global issue with a new, specific, and measurable plan. In Edesia’s case, there also appear to be tremendous opportunities for scale and impact.
The RUFs produced by Edesia to nourish children in developing countries are fortified peanut-based pastes that are used to treat and prevent malnutrition. Plumpy’nut® is the most well known for its ability to treat the severest cases. The other foods are used for treatment of moderate cases as well as prevention and include: Supplementary’Plumpy®, Plumpy’doz®, and Nutributter®.
This month alone, Edesia is shipping 12,000 boxes of Supplementary’Plumpy® to Haiti. This is enough supplementary food to nourish 30,000 children for 2 months and can be used to address the needs of at-risk mothers, and people living with HIV/AIDS as well. Salem told me that "These foods are revolutionary because they don’t need to be refrigerated or mixed with water – two things not readily available in the developing world."
Additionally, with a new $2 million grant from USAID, Edesia is producing Nutributter®, a supplement for children ages 6 – 24 months. Under the grant, Edesia will produce more than 45 million daily doses over the next three years. According to Salem, "The packets will ensure the proper growth and cognitive development of more than 250,000 children by preventing the devastating effects of malnutrition."
Armed with her entrepreneurial experience helping tmp.worldwide to launch monster.com, Salem had searched for something meaningful to help people in Tanzania and other developing countries. Although Salem grew up in the United States, her family was originally from Tanzania. She was first inspired by a visit to a factory in Arusha, Tanzania, where Acumen Fund and its local partners provided jobs, while manufacturing bed nets to protect children from malaria. This model of using a factory to meet an urgent need and to create jobs at the same time was exciting. She then learned about Plumpy’nut® and its powerful effect in the lives of malnourished children from a 60 Minutes piece. She got in touch with the Plumpy’nut® creator, Nutriset, and was on her way.
In addition to the Providence factory, Edesia also supports a Tanzanian producer called Power Foods that is launching production of Ready-to-Use Foods to serve the East Africa region.
Salem was effusive about the value of participating in the CGI conference, a meeting place of the world’s heads of state, corporate donors, and enterprising and innovative NGOs/nonprofits. Having attended the past two CGI conferences myself, I have witnessed the power of the conference in facilitating partnerships among funders and NGOs, while also capturing, building, and sharing knowledge that helps all parties to be more effective with their investments.
For Salem, action means saving children’s lives through global nutrition solutions. She is reaching her commitment one child at a time. Find out here how you can help.