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To Prevent Malnutrition, for the Children’s Sake
April 14, 2008
To the Editor:
Re 'The World Food Crisis' (editorial, April 10):
What should also be highlighted is the devastating effect that rising world food prices will have on the most vulnerable infants and young children.
Beyond the age of exclusive breast-feeding, the quality of the food children receive is as important as the quantity. To maintain health and growth, children between 6 and 24 months old need energy furnished by grains and fats, as well as specific essential nutrients included in animal-source proteins like milk.
In 'malnutrition hot spots' like the Sahel, East Africa and South Asia, where most of the world's five million malnutrition-related deaths occur each year, poor families already struggle, and often fail, to provide their children with such varied diets.
As you point out, it is critical to strengthen the World Food Program's ability to carry out general food distributions and other interventions as the global food crisis spreads. But increasing the quantity of food aid is not enough. Stemming and reversing the high rate of malnutrition-related deaths in the young should be a top priority.
'Ready to use' nutrient-rich and dense foods and other nutritional supplements geared to the specific needs of young children can have a significant effect. Enhancing existing food aid with these supplements may increase the global cost of food aid, but if the world truly seeks to contain this growing crisis, this cannot be seen as a luxury.
Nicolas de Torrente