Food aid not nutritious

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) warned that much of the food aid given to poor countries grappling with rising prices was unsuitable for malnourished children.

"We see that when food prices rise the first thing to be reduced or cut out are things like milk products that young kids need most," said MSF nutritional advisor Susan Shepherd.

"Unfortunately, donors continue to apply a 'one size fits all' approach to nutritional aid. The wrong food aid can mean children will still get malnourished and fall ill, or die unnecessarily," she warned.

Children require diets that contain specific nutrients included in animal-source food, like milk.

Food price crisis having huge impact
Food prices have been spiralling upwards globally due to rising populations, strong demand from developing countries, the use of certain foods in bio fuels to combat global warming, and increasing floods and droughts.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has warned of a 'silent tsunami' as an extra 100 million people who previously did not require help could now not afford to buy food.

Price hikes for staples such as rice - which is now nearing the 1 000 dollars per tonne mark, more than double the cost in early March - have led to riots and protests in a number of developing countries.

'Food aid hasn't enough nutrients for children'
MSF said that delivering milk products to malnourished children as part of food aid was complex, but that recent technological advances made it easier than before through nutrient-rich ready-to-use foods (RUFs) which don't need water, cooking or refrigeration.

"Among nutritionists it's quite well recognised that what's normally delivered as food aid doesn't have all the nutrients you'd need for small children," said Tido von Schoen-Angerer, head of MSF's Access campaign.

RUFs could help solve this problem but they are not currently included within food aid distributed by UN agencies and other organisations, he told AFP. "It really needs a real political will" to change this situation, and MSF has been holding talks with both EU and US authorities on the subject, he said. – (Sapa)

April 2008

Read more:
Undernutrition stunts SA kids

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