World Food Summit Fails to Address Childhood Malnutrition

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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As the World Food Summit draws to a close, the international community once again provides no commitments on tackling childhood malnutrition. World leaders have also failed to commit funds to directly target the malnutrition problem, despite pledges of US $20 billion to support food security made at the l’Aquila G8 meeting earlier this year.

The neglect of 3.5 to 5 million children under the age of five who die from malnutrition each year means that the summit has conspicuously failed to protect those most in need.

In 2008, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) treated more than 300,000 malnourished children worldwide. MSF teams have witnessed the damage caused by ineffective food assistance that continues in spite of the existence of scientific consensus on preventing malnutrition.

A report released last week by MSF revealed that of the billions of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country funds allocated to international food aid and food security, only 1.7 percent directly target childhood malnutrition. Part of existing funds must be reallocated so that aid targets malnutrition directly.

Ensuring that food assistance prevents childhood malnutrition is an urgent need; designing programs to meet the food needs of young children should be a priority. In reality, current food aid funded by international donors such as the OECD countries does not contain the nutrients a young child needs for growth and development.

G8 leaders were absent from the World Food Summit. This is no excuse for inaction on childhood malnutrition, particularly when it comes to allocation of funds pledged at the G8 meeting in L’Aquila.