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MSF Calls For Donor Countries To Improve Food Aid Nutrition Standards On Eve Of World Food Day

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) released a statement in advance of Saturday’s World Food Day saying that the “world’s biggest donors of food aid … continued to supply and fund nutritionally ‘substandard’ food to developing countries, despite scientific evidence showing it was of little value in reducing child malnutrition,” Reuters AlertNet reports.

An MSF statement “said most child nutrition programs in the developing world that receive international food aid rely on fortified blended flours such as corn- and soy-blend (CSB) cereals. However, CSB cereals do not meet international standards for the nutritional needs of under-twos, MSF said, citing the views of a World Health Organisation panel of nutrition experts in 2008 which found that CSB was inappropriate for treating malnourished children,” Reuters AlertNet writes.

The statement quoted Susan Shepherd, the organization’s nutrition advisor, who said: “Despite an international consensus on the most appropriate nutritional composition of foods for malnourished children, donor countries continue to subsidise and supply a one-size fits all product that we know fails to meet this standard and to decrease the risk of death due to malnutrition” (Nguyen, 10/14).

“Foods we would never give our own children are being sent overseas as food aid to the most vulnerable children in malnutrition hotspots in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia,” MSF International President Unni Karunakara said in the statement. “This double standard must stop” (10/14).

Sophie Delaunay, the executive director of MSF USA, sent letters highlighting the same message to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “The U.S. government’s stated attention to malnutrition and maternal and child health directly conflicts with U.S. food aid policy,” Delaunay wrote in the letters (10/14).

MSF also held an event in Kenya to highlight the issue, the Daily Nation reports (Barasa, 10/15).

Media Covers World Food Day

As World Food Day approaches, several news outlets examined global hunger and reported on related developments.

“Only in recent history have entire societies been able to rise above chronic hunger and the constant threat of famine. Even with that success, many countries in Africa and South Asia continue to struggle with the problem. Technological advancements have helped to improve agriculture production. But the cost of food remains perhaps the biggest obstacle to feeding the hungry,” VOA News writes in a story looking at the different factors affecting the cost of food. The article quotes Katsuji Matsunami, an adviser/practice leader on agriculture, food security and rural development with the Asian Development Bank’s Regional Sustainable Development Department and Joachim von Braun, the director of the Center for Development Research at University of Bonn (Stevenson, 10/14).

India has 42 percent of the world’s underweight children, despite “economic growth that rivals China’s,” according to the recent Global Hunger Index, the Canadian Press reports.

“Another report on Wednesday noted that, among the Commonwealth of 54 former British colonies that competed in this month’s Delhi games, India ranked worst in terms of child hunger, with 43 percent of its children underweight compared with 31 percent in Pakistan and 23 percent in Nigeria. Those numbers, offered by the Save the Children organization, cited 2009 data from UNICEF,” the news service writes. “We need to be asking ourselves, what or who is this economic growth for?” said ActionAid India Director Sandeep Chachra (Daigle, 10/15).

On Friday, Rwandan President Paul Kagame called for governments to collectively deliver on pledges to halve world hunger by 2015, SAPA-Agence France-Presse/IOL reports. “With prosperity all around us and significant advances in technology and modern science, we cannot accept the numbers dying in the world for hunger,” Kagame said at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s meeting in Rome ahead of World Food Day. “He called for governments to focus on food security but warned officials not to bypass small farmers ‘who must be involved in finding solutions'” (10/15).

Also as part of its World Food Day Coverage, VOA News interviewed U.N. experts and an analyst from the South Center, a developing countries think tank based in Switzerland, about global hunger (Hennessey, 10/14). Another article looked at food insecurity in Kenya (Onyiego, 10/14).

U.N. To Announce Eradication Of Deadly Cattle Disease That Has Contributed To Famine

“Scientists are poised to eliminate the deadly cattle disease Rinderpest, ending a malady that has devastated animal herds for centuries, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] said on Thursday,” Reuters reports (10/14).

“Although rinderpest does not directly affect humans, its ability to cause swift, massive losses of cattle and other hoofed animals has wreaked havoc on agriculture for millennia, resulting in famine and economic destruction,” the U.N. News Centre writes. According to the FAO, smallpox is the only other disease that has been eradicated by human efforts (10/14).

An official announcement from FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health about the eradication “is expected in mid-2011, pending a review of final official disease status reports from a handful of countries,” an FAO press release states (10/14).