Honoree Spotlight

Dr. Mark Manary: Never Give Up

Dr. Mark Manary is one of those people who likes a challenge, even when it seems too big for one individual to handle alone.

“I’m not a person who makes lifelong plans,” said Dr. Manary in a recent Huffington Post interview. “I’m the type of person who tends to respond to what the biggest problem is rather than what I can bring to the table. I’m all about getting over and through the current roadblocks.”

On the Ground
Dr. Mark Manary – 2007 Health Award Honoree

Impact to date:

Saved the lives of 100,000 critically-ill children in 3 African countries.


To provide treatment and relief to children suffering from malnutrition.

Words of Wisdom:

“My personal ambition is to fix malnutrition for kids in Africa, and I don’t really have that type of opportunity in St. Louis.”

It was in this spirit that Dr. Manary found inspiration to tackle one of the biggest challenges faced by humanity: finding an effective treatment for malnutrition in children. Every year, 3.5 million children under age five die simply because they do not have access to enough food. Most of these children live in impoverished areas of south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

In 1999, Dr. Manary went on a 10-week-long trip to Malawi, one of the places hardest hit by malnutrition. Every year, Malawi faces an annual “hunger season” when the rains come and farmers run out of crops. When he arrived, the malnourished children were hospitalized and treated with fortified milk; however, only 25 to 40 percent of patients recovered. The majority would either relapse or die.

Dr. Manary knew that something had to change. He began collaborating with Dr. Andre Briend at Nutriset, a humanitarian, French-based company best known for their development of the first Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTFs). He also realized that children might have a better chance at recovery if mothers could treat their sick children from home. Under the current model, mothers had to travel miles in order to seek medical care; if a child is hospitalized, the entire family is put under greater strain, having to go back and forth between their community and the hospital. Therefore, the food had to be something that didn’t spoil, didn’t have to be cooked and could be easily administered at home.

Over the next four years, Dr. Manary and a team of doctors conducted a series of clinical trials giving RUTF formulas to malnourished children in their own homes. The results were astonishing: 80 percent of patients reached their desired weight over the course of a 12-week treatment period. Eventually, Dr. Manary’s team came up with the most effective formula which they named “Chiponde,” a paste made up of peanuts, powdered milk, vegetable oil, sugar, vitamins and minerals.

The final piece of the puzzle was determining how Chiponde would be quickly produced and delivered to Africa. Though other experts in the field were skeptical about the idea, Dr. Manary decided that Chiponde must be manufactured locally in order to make the greatest impact.

“When we started, this was not embraced by anybody,” Dr. Manary told the Huffington Post, “and we met skepticism from a variety of corners. But in situations of chronic poverty, you’re definitely going to get more mileage out of something you can embed in the local fabric.”

To everyone’s surprise – except, perhaps, his own – Dr. Manary’s idea worked. Today, Project Peanut Butter manufactures between 1,000 and 1,250 tons of Chiponde every year through the use of local African facilities. About 6,000 local farmers are supported by Project Peanut Butter to produce the majority of ingredients needed to make the paste.

In 2007, Dr. Manary received the World of Children Health Award for his dedication to finding a viable solution to the worldwide hunger epidemic. Five years after receiving the Award, Project Peanut Butter had saved the lives of over 100,000 critically-ill children and served thousands more. But Dr. Manary can’t stop there: he has a goal to save 2 million children by 2015. To help reach this milestone, Dr. Manary spends nearly 11 months away from his home in St. Louis to keep making headway in Africa.

“A common question these days is, ‘What do you like about this?’ It’s not that I like a problem more than others or I have a gift,” admitted Dr. Manary in his Huffington Post interview. “My personal ambition is to fix malnutrition for kids in Africa, and I don’t really have that type of opportunity in St. Louis.”

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