Funding by rich countries to combat malnutrition has remained flat for seven years, according to a report released today by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). This accounts for barely three per cent of the funds needed to reduce the 3.5 to 5 million annual deaths of children under five attributed to malnutrition. The report also reveals the enormous waste built into the food aid system. According to MSF, much of the nutrition funding gap could be filled by re-allocating existing funds towards the most vulnerable group, children under five years of age. The report, released in advance of the World Food Summit taking place Nov. 16 to 18 in Rome, analyzes how a global effort to prevent childhood malnutrition – which can lead to life-long handicaps, if not death – has simply not been funded. Rich countries only spend an annual $361 million Cnd out of $12.9 billion Cnd the World Bank estimates is required to adequately combat malnutrition in 36 high-burden and 32 high-prevalence countries. “ At the World Food Summit it would be a colossal mistake not to finally commit to improve and scale up nutrition programs alongside efforts to boost local food production, ” said MSF nutrition team leader and co-author of the report, Stéphane Doyon. “This report documents the fact that nutrition interventions that have been proven to reduce deaths remain catastrophically underfunded.” MSF used data from the European Commission, the World Bank and the Gates Foundation to analyze the funding flows of the main international donors. The organization also used information from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as well as UNITAID, the UN body addressing access to affordable medicines for HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. Although billions of dollars of international assistance are labelled “development food aid and food security” or “emergency food aid,” less than two per cent of that is being spent on interventions targeted specifically at reducing childhood malnutrition. Moreover, existing funds are being wasted through inefficient practices, such as the U.S. government policy of shipping in-kind food aid overseas, which costs an estimated $619 million Cnd more than purchasing food aid locally. “The lack of targeted efforts means that young children receive inappropriate food that does not have the key nutrients they need to avoid becoming dangerously malnourished,” said Doyon. “There are opportunities to partly scale-up nutrition funding simply by improving the efficiency of the existing donor government policies.” Today the authors of the report said that governments can also improve food aid by introducing and paying for newer, more expensive, but nutritionally appropriate food for young children. International organizations, including MSF, have proven that severe malnutrition can be prevented and cured on a very large scale. In 2008, MSF treated more than 300,000 malnourished children. Malnutrition weakens resistance and increases the risk of dying from pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles or AIDS.

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