As the World Food Summit draws to a close in Rome this week, the international community has once again neglected to deal with childhood malnutrition. World leaders have failed to commit funds to directly target malnutrition, despite pledges made at the l’Aquila G8 meeting earlier this year of $21 billion to support food security.  The needs of the 3.5 to 5 million children under the age of five that die from malnutrition each year have been neglected. This means that the summit has conspicuously failed to protect those most in need. In 2008 Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) treated more than 300,000 malnourished children worldwide. MSF teams have witnessed the damage caused by ineffective food assistance, ineffective despite the fact that scientific consensus on preventing malnutrition exists. A report released by MSF last week revealed that of the billions of dollars allocated to international food aid and food security only 1.7 per cent directly targets childhood malnutrition. Part of these existing funds must be reallocated so this aid directly targets malnutrition. Ensuring food assistance prevents childhood malnutrition is an urgent need. Designing programs to meet the nutritional needs of young children should be a priority. In reality, current food aid funded by international donors such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development does not contain the nutrients a young child needs for growth and development. G8 leaders were absent from the World Food Summit. This cannot be an excuse for inaction on childhood malnutrition, particularly when it comes to the allocation of funds pledged at the G8 meeting in L’Aquila.

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