An undernourished child in Kenya drinks store-bought ‘maziwa lala’ (sour milk) (photo credit: ILRI/Elsworth).
Eric Muñoz, a policy adviser for Oxfam America, blogs in the Guardian about a new report that takes a hard look at the commodities the US uses to respond to disaster and food insecurity, such as is unfolding in the Horn of Africa, and makes concrete recommendations.
‘The worst drought in 45 years, a drought with no end in sight at the moment, is ravaging the south-central US and wreaking havoc on farmers and ranchers who are seeing their crops fail and their cattle suffer from lack of water.
‘Meanwhile, almost halfway around the world, in the Horn of Africa, a broad swath of the region—including parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia—is suffering a severe drought that threatens to push millions of people already living on the brink of disaster into a full-scale humanitarian crisis. . . .
‘Poor farmers and pastoralists in the Horn of Africa face a very different and much deadlier reality [than farmers and ranchers in the US]. In Ethiopia, 3.2 million people currently need humanitarian assistance; in Kenya 2.4 million people do. And in Somalia, the current drought is compounding an already desperate situation where median prevalence of acute malnutrition was 25% in December last year and has deteriorated since. Without assistance, many people, and children especially, will die. The US is responding to this unfolding disaster, for example releasing $80m in food aid to Kenya.
‘How the US responds to this disaster, or more precisely with what, is the subject of renewed scrutiny thanks to a report released last week, Delivering Improved Nutrition: Recommendations for Changes to US Food Aid Products and Programmes. . . .
‘The current basket of commodities has been roundly (and rightly) criticised for being inadequate . . . .
‘Updating the nutrient profiles of US food aid commodities by, for example, including an animal source protein, providing vegetable oil as part of food aid rations, and updating the vitamin and minerals that are blended in most food aid commodities are important steps that should be taken in order to improve the nutritional impact of US food aid. . . .
‘Reducing waste in the programme would make it more efficient and offset the some of the added cost associated with the higher-priced ingredients needed for the improved food aid quality.
‘The technical issue should be considered a call to arms for USAID, donors from other countries and private sector partners to innovate and invest in processing facilities in developing countries in order to increase local capacity to mill and supply these foods. It’s a challenge yes, but one that if overcome would have long-term benefits for food security and even poverty reduction. . . .’
Read the whole article at the Guardian‘s Poverty Matters Blog: US food aid: Making the most of what we deliver, 9 May 2011.