IRIN Examines MSF’s Concerns Over U.S. Food Aid For Malnourished Children Under Age 2

IRIN examines the recently launched 1,000 Days campaign and concerns expressed by Medecins Sans Frontieres’ (MSF) Emi MacLean that most of the $2 billion the U.S. spends on food aid is for corn soya blend, which lacks animal-source food and is not ideal for children under age 2 or children who are moderately malnourished.

“Providing quality nutrition in the first 1,000 days can save a million children every year, according to a new effort by U.N. and other partners to scale-up nutrition in poor countries,” IRIN writes. “Most international food aid consists of blended flour, which does not include animal-source protein such as milk and essential minerals and vitamins. However, most European donors now provide money to buy food, rather than donations.”

In response to MSF’s point, a spokesperson for USAID “pointed to a blog post written by Ertharin Cousin, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. agencies in Rome. While Cousin did not address the nutritional deficiencies in the aid the U.S. provides, she noted that the U.S. Congress had earmarked $14 million for a pilot project to ‘field-test new or improved micronutrient-fortified food aid products’ and to innovate around the nutritional content and composition of food aid products,” the news service notes. Cousin also mentioned a study being conducted by the Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy – funded by a $1.5 million grant from USAID – to examine the quality of U.S. food aid operations.”

The article includes view points from Cornell University’s Christopher Barrett and Frederic Mousseau, a senior fellow at the Oakland Institute, who discuss the efficiency and cost of U.S. food aid (11/1).

Experts Focus On Food Security, Climate Change At Conference In The Hague

“Experts from around the world are gathering at The Hague for the Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change – also known as Down2Earth,” VOA News writes of the conference, which started on Sunday and concludes on Nov. 5. “Conference organizers say the aim is to ‘develop a roadmap with concrete actions linking agriculture-related investments, policies and measures with the transition to climate-smart growth,'” according to the article.

In the story, Jerry Nelson, a research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), discusses the link between agriculture and climate change. “People are gradually realizing that, but it’s taken some time, and we need to keep making the points that you can’t keep agriculture out of the negotiations,” Nelson said. IFPRI plans to release a report addressing the issue in December, he added (De Capua, 10/29).

In light of Down2Earth, a second VOA News article looks at “a major issue concerning Africa … the importance of the continent’s soil. Experts differ on the best ways to turn often parched and depleted land into fertile ground. But there is general agreement that it is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

“In Africa, really, nobody was paying attention about this 10 years ago. Everybody thought that other problems were more overwhelming, problems of corruption, governance, land tenure and then technically, agronomically, the need for improved [plant] varieties,” said Pedro Sanchez, director of the Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment program at Columbia University.

“We need to be focusing on the soil and the health of the soil and so many of the current things [issues] that are being pushed focus on high-tech solutions where you manipulate seeds, where you manipulate fertilizer or you create monocultures. And, most of those practices do not result in producing healthy soil. And, so, many of the challenges that Africa is facing are related to the fact that its soils are collapsing,” said Shannon Horst, a co-founder of the Savory Institute, an NGO that aims to restore grasslands and biodiversity. Sanchez and Horst raise several other points, such as how agricultural programs should change and models that have been successful.

“To help in this debate, the African Soils Information Service, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is now working on making its interactive digital soil map of the continent available to farmers through their mobile phones, so they can make decisions based on data and comparisons,” VOA News writes (Colombant, 11/1).

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