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Finding New Ways to Feed the World’s Hungry Children

Doctors Without Borders is calling for the expanded use of ready-to-use food, which it says could reduce child deaths. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

October sixteenth is World Food Day. The campaign chosen for this year by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is "The Right to Food." The aim is to demonstrate that human rights are increasingly recognized as an important part of ending hunger and poverty.

Worldwide, the United Nations says more than eight hundred fifty million people do not have enough food. Every year an estimated five million children under the age of five die of nutrition-related causes.

When it comes to food aid, quantity is important but so is quality.

To help children at risk, the international humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders has launched a worldwide appeal. The group is calling for the expanded use of what is known as therapeutic ready-to-use food to treat severely malnourished children.

It also wants this kind of food added to children's diets to prevent malnutrition from ever happening.

Ready-to-use-food is usually a sweet spread made with peanuts, dry milk, sugar, vegetable fat, minerals and vitamins. The food does not have to be mixed with water, which in many countries may be dirty. And families do not have to go to feeding centers. Individual servings come ready to eat.

Doctor Milton Tectonidis is a nutrition expert with Doctors Without Borders. He tells us that traditional methods of fighting hunger in children are not meeting their needs.

Enriched flour or a mixture of corn and soy are commonly used to improve children's diets. But he says this kind of food aid lacks enough calories and nutrients to prevent malnutrition.

The group is doing research in Niger. Doctor Tectonidis says this research has shown that ready-to-use food is more effective in keeping children from becoming severely malnourished.

The World Health Organization estimates that twenty million children at any given time suffer from severe malnutrition. Doctor Tectonidis says only three percent of them will receive ready-to-use-food this year. Doctors Without Borders is urging donors, United Nations agencies and governments to increase support for ready-to-use food.

In addition, Doctor Tectonidis says more research is needed to create new forms of it. And not just to help children survive and grow, he says, but even to support the diets of pregnant women.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss.