Indian Government Asks UNICEF To Stop Distribution Of Nutrition Aid

“India has asked UNICEF to stop distributing millions of dollars worth of
nutrition aid to children, saying it had been done without permission and
at the expense of local food to fight hunger,” Reuters reports. Since
August 2008, UNICEF has invested about $2.4 million importing “a high
energy relief treatment known as ‘Ready to Use Therapeutic Food’ (RUTF)”
for children with severe acute malnutrition in the states of Bihar and
Madhya Pradesh, according to the news service (Williams, 8/4).

The Indian government said that UNICEF had failed to inform them about the
importation of the RUTF Plumpy’nut this year, and the government objected
to the treatment because it was unconvinced the product works and wanted
UNICEF to find “Indian alternatives,” the Times reports. The Times reports
that the issue illustrates how efforts to end malnutrition in India are
often held up by red tape and a long-standing “desire to maintain food
security and avoid depending on foreign aid.” The article includes
additional comments by a malnutrition experts on the ground in India who
acknowledged that UNICEF should have gotten the necessary permissions from
the government for importing Plumpy’nut, but believe the Indian government
is overreacting (Page, 8/5).

According to Reuters, UNICEF says it has a “strong working relationship”
with India’s health ministry. “‘Children with severe acute malnutrition
are at risk of imminent death and need immediate, life-saving treatment,’
UNICEF said in a statement, adding the treatment was sanctioned by the
WHO. ‘Family foods or supplementary foods are not enough; these children
need very specific treatment for their condition,'” Reuters writes (8/4).

In related news, “India is emerging as the global centre of hunger and
malnutrition, failing to eradicate hunger for large sections of its
population of more than 1.2 billion,” despite the region’s economic
growth, according to a recent survey, the Irish Times reports. The report,
“based largely on data collated from government surveys, shows India’s
annual per capita food consumption has decreased from 186kg per person in
1991 to 152kg in 2001, despite state subsidies.” The report also found
“more than 200 million people – or one-in-four Indians – remain hungry,”
the publication reports (Bedi, 8/5).

The Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report is published by the Kaiser
Family Foundation. © 2009 Henry J. Kaiser

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