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Reform In Food Aid Distribution Could Lead To More Lives Saved, Study Suggests

“International development agencies may be able to save the lives of a greater number of undernourished children by changing how they allocate food aid in developing countries, suggests a study published [Monday] in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” SciDev.Net reports. “The findings are based on mathematical modeling using data from more than 5,600 children from Bwamanda in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” the news service writes. “Instead of allocating food based solely on weight-for-height measurements, as is currently recommended, making use of additional ‘height-for-age’ data reduced the effects of malnutrition by nine percent in the study,” SciDev.Net states, adding that “the same end results in alleviating malnutrition were achieved with the new method as with the current one but with a 61 percent cut in the cost of providing ready-to-use therapeutic and supplementary food, the study found.”

“Lawrence M. Wein, professor of management science at Stanford University, United States, and the corresponding author of the study, says one of the main results is that ‘relative to the currently used policies, incorporating height-for-age information into the allocation decision improves performance — that is, it saves lives,’” according to SciDev.Net. “The study also proposes that when making crucial food allocation decisions, aid agencies should prioritize those children most in need — even if it means that others go without,” the news service notes. However, “because of the limited scope of the study, the authors do not make specific policy recommendations,” the news service writes, adding, “They call for more data that can be used to inform such pressing allocation decisions, and also highlight the scarcity of useful data on the effect of food-based treatment” (Williams, 3/4).