A New York Times feature recently highlighted the potential and the controversy of the plumpy’nut foods that fight child malnutrition. What cannot be forgotten amidst the debate is the number of malnourished children who need this food–now.
The charity Action Against Hunger says “each year, at least 3.5 million children die from malnutrition-related causes.” So any debate on plumpy’nut must also coincide with action on child feeding. As George Marshall used to warn during discussions over European reconstruction, “the patient is sinking, while the doctors deliberate.” We don’t want that to happen now with regard to children.
Ensuring that all children have access to food should be at the top of the agenda for the upcoming Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit in New York. The Summit will provide an opportunity for leaders to take on the global hunger crisis and the need for universal child feeding.
There are over 1 billion people suffering from hunger worldwide and children are most vulnerable. Many countries are facing deficits in their child feeding, whether it’s plumpy’nut for infants or other foods for school-age children.
Funding for aid programs is facing major shortfalls. Yemen, for instance, is in dire need of supplementary plumpy for its infant feeding programs run by the World Food Programme (WFP). However, WFP’s Yemen operation has suffered from lack of donations.
A plant in Ethiopia will be starting production of supplementary plumpy as early as this month. The Ethiopia plant could, in the interim, become a supplier for Yemen. Plans could follow for developing food capacity within Yemen itself, perhaps even including its own plumpy plant.
Shortages go beyond infant feeding to foods for school-age children. Take the WFP Food for Education program in Yemen which has had only one distribution since June, 2009 because of low funding. Children’s health and education suffer as a result.
School feeding programs across the globe are facing big cuts. Even in Iraq, a country very much in the U.S. spotlight, WFP school feeding for Iraqi children was recently cut because of low funding. This denies the Iraqi children food at school, fortified with Vitamin A and iron, which would improve class performance and attendance.
It would be relatively inexpensive to close child feeding gaps. An interim aid program can supply child feeding globally and move alongside a longer-range plan addressing local food supply and production in developing countries.
This is an example of why a U.S. food ambassador, or hunger envoy, should be appointed. The World Food Program USA is urging people to write their Senators about supporting the Global Food Security Act which would establish such a position.
There is a global hunger crisis raging as child feeding programs face huge shortages. It’s time to get to work on both interim and long-term aid plans to ensure child feeding and other food security programs.
See Action Against Hunger’s Campaign Where’s The Bailout For The One Billion Hungry?