G8 Must Take Action to Save Most Vulerable in Food Crisis
“There is an urgent need to act now to scale-up treatment for children who are most at risk of dying of malnutrition,” said Dr. Susan Shepherd, nutritional advisor for MSF’s Access to Essential Medicines Campaign. “Ninety five percent of children with the most severe form of malnutrition do not get adequate treatment. G8 leaders can take immediate steps to get children this life-saving treatment.” The UN estimates US$8 billion will be needed each year to fund comprehensive nutrition strategies for children and women in 100 million families at risk. One and a half billion dollars of this is needed annually to treat those children most at risk of death from the most severe form of malnutrition. G8 leaders need to ensure that affected countries can scale-up programmes and know that highly nutritious ready-to-use food will be available to them free of charge. MSF is seeing rising levels of malnutrition in its projects in several of the world’s hotspots, including Ethiopia, and Niger. The ‘hunger gap’ period between harvests, compounded by drought has led to elevated levels of malnutrition. In Oromiya, and in projects in the Southern Region of Ethiopia, MSF has admitted more than 6,500 severely malnourished children since mid-May.
Malnutrition is a chronic emergency that is only exacerbated by rising food prices. When food prices are high, poor families must cut out expensive animal source foods such as dairy, eggs and meats from their diets. These are key to ensuring young children grow properly and are able to fend off disease. Yet food aid for children consists of corn or wheat/soy blended porridge without any animal source content, which are not effective at addressing malnutrition. The milk component of donated enriched flours targeted at young children was eliminated from U.S. food aid in the late 1980s for economic reasons, when there were no more milk surpluses. Low cost solutions in this case can be dangerous.
As more and more families ask themselves how they will feed their children, MSF asks the G8 leaders if they are willing to make a substantial and sustained investment in children’s futures. “We all know which foods children need to grow and be healthy, so how is it leaders are satisfied with the double standard of sending food that they wouldn’t dream of giving their own kids?” said Dr. Shepherd. “Without concrete, significant long-term commitments, we are fooling ourselves to think that we will have a significant impact on treatment and prevention of child malnutrition.”