G8: Reform Food Aid System And Generate Resources to Reduce Malnutrition

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Tim Shenk
Press Officer
Direct: 212-763-5764
E-mail: tim.shenk@newyork.msf.org

G8: Reform Food Aid System And Generate Resources to Reduce Malnutrition

TORONTO/GENEVA - World leaders meeting at the G8 and G20 summits will
not succeed in improving mother and child health in the developing
world unless they fundamentally change how they address malnutrition and
establish new sustainable funding sources to combat this treatable and
preventable condition, the international medical humanitarian
organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said
today.

Malnutrition affects 195 million children worldwide and is the
underlying cause of at least one-third of the eight million annual
deaths of children under five years of age. It can cause stunting,
cognitive impairment, and lead to greater susceptibility to disease. The
problem is inextricably linked with mother and child health, as
malnourished mothers give birth to underweight children, perpetuating a
vicious cycle. Many mothers living in areas of high food insecurity do
not have access to foods like milk and eggs that contain the
high-quality protein and other essential nutrients that their children
need. Currently, most international food aid consists of nutritionally
inadequate fortified corn-soy flours, which do not provide the nutrients
young children need most.

"Foods we would never give our own children to eat are being sent
overseas as food aid to the most vulnerable children in malnutrition
hotspots in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia," said MSF
International President Dr. Christophe Fournier. "This double standard
must stop. As the world's leading food aid donors, G8 countries are
uniquely positioned to have a major impact on reducing malnutrition. If
world leaders in Muskoka and Toronto want to truly roll back mother and
child mortality, it is imperative they commit to reforming key parts of
the global food aid system. We know what works and what children need -
let's simply get it to them."

In addition to improving the quality of food aid provided to young
children, an effective overall nutrition response will require
substantial financial resources. The World Bank estimates it will cost
$12 billion per year to address malnutrition in the most-affected
countries. In a time of global economic austerity, current funding from
donors is insufficient, volatile, and unpredictable. Sustainable sources
of funding through innovative financial mechanisms are required, such
as the financial transaction tax currently promoted by the European
Union. A share of the funds raised by such means must be earmarked to
global health issues such as nutrition, HIV/AIDS treatment, and
tuberculosis research.

In 2009, MSF treated 208,000 children affected by severe acute
malnutrition in its programs. Although this is barely one percent of the
20 million children estimated to be affected, this represents more than
15 percent of the 1,200,000 children who received treatment.

"Nongovernmental agencies should not be expected to carry such a huge
burden in fighting malnutrition," said Dr. Fournier. "Donor governments
need to step up to fill the gap and help the most-affected countries
follow lifesaving nutrition programs that have been successfully
implemented in countries like Mexico, Thailand, and Brazil. We need
sustainable sources of funding, like the proposed financial transaction
levy, that dedicate a share to global health - not the one-shot pledges
that G8 summits are prone to deliver."

The G8 gathering coincides with the onset of a particularly harsh
"hunger gap" season in Africa's Sahel region, the period when staple
food crops are exhausted before the next harvest. Most countries in the
region are already experiencing increasing rates of childhood
malnutrition. MSF is operating emergency nutrition programs-and
reinforcing existing ones-in Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mali, and Sudan.

MSF recently launched "Starved for Attention," a global multimedia
campaign to highlight the crisis of childhood malnutrition and how
increased childhood sickness and death can be prevented with effective
nutrition interventions: www.starvedforattention.org

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Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. MSF's work is based on the humanitarian principles of medical ethics and impartiality. The organization is committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation.
MSF operates independently of any political, military, or religious agendas.

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