Last week the Rhode Island company Edesia sent off a shipment of supplementary plumpy’nut (a peanut-based food commonly used for famine relief) to help fight child malnutrition in Pakistan. This is part of a global effort to provide relief to Pakistanis after the massive flooding which impacted millions of people.
Tragically, the effort to help Pakistan is facing a severe funding shortfall. As a result, shipments from Edesia and other food producers are not enough to meet the current challenge.
Child malnutrition is fast rising in Pakistan. The World Food Programme reports in one survey “that 27 percent of almost 2,000 children screened are severely malnourished, with 20 percent falling in the moderate category. Approximately 17 percent of surveyed pregnant and lactating women were also found to be malnourished.”
Supplementary plumpy being prepared for shipment to Pakistan. (Edesia photo)
The consequences of malnutrition jeopardize the future of many Pakistani children. Lack of proper nourishment at this young age causes irreversible physical and mental damage.
WFP is short about $80 million for the next two months’ operation. WFP says it “may be forced to eliminate certain commodities from the food basket, reduce ration sizes, or limit the number of beneficiaries in receipt of assistance.”
This is a disaster for the relief operation, not to mention any hopes for reconstruction. For WFP to provide food relief into mid-2011, it requires $398 million more.
The U.S. and international partners need to respond to this massive crisis. What is missing from U.S. planning at the highest levels is the realization that food is the very basis of achieving foreign policy objectives. Any plans for peace and stability in Pakistan rest on a foundation of food, particularly for children. The same can also be said for Afghanistan which is facing its own food and child malnutrition crisis.
The feeding and rehabilitation of children is a basic tenet of U.S. foreign policy, made most famous during the World Wars. The key is that where there is a breakdown in this effort, you fix it.