Archive for October, 2010

Washington D.C.’s MLK Library Hosts Starved for Attention

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
The Starved for Attention exhibit is now on display in Washington D.C.’s main public library branch, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.  Two LG flat screens showing the short documentaries can be viewed in the lobby of the landmark building, which is located on G and 9th Streets downtown.

Audrey Middleton takes in Jessica Dimmock's images from Burkina Faso.

Starved for Attention Targets the European Union

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
In advance of World Food Day, MSF installed a jumbo LED screen in the heart of the European Union quarter of Brussels to display Starved for Attention images. The nearly 120 square foot screen counts the number of children suffering from malnutrition each week, and challenges the European Union, one of the largest food aid donors, to reform its policies to meet their nutritional needs.
Médecins Sans Frontières a installé, sur le Rond-point Schuman à Bruxelles, un grand écran qui comptabilise le nombre de nouveaux cas de malnutrition chez les enfants (2,678,571 à la fin de la semaine). Cette action est organisée dans le cadre de la Journée mondiale de l’alimentation du 16 octobre. Signez la pétition pour demander que l’aide alimentaire fournie par l’Union européenne soit enfin mieux adaptée aux besoins nutritionnels des enfants.

MSF staff collect signatures for the Starved for Attention petition.

The Starved for Attention display in Schuman Square, Brussels.

Brookings Institution Hosts Panel Discussion on Childhood Malnutrition

Monday, October 18th, 2010

On October 12th, MSF and the Wolfensohn Center for Development at the Brookings Institution hosted a discussion of the challenges in global food assistance and how recent developments and initiatives can be expanded to effectively tackle the ongoing crisis of global child malnutrition.

Panelists included MSF’s Nutrition Coordinator Dr. Susan Shepherd; Bruce Cogill, chief of nutrition at USAID; Meera Shekar, lead health and nutrition specialist at the World Bank; and Victoria Quinn, senior vice president for progams, Helen Keller International. Elaine Wolfensohn, founder of the Wolfensohn Family Foundation, made introductory remarks. Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow Raj Desai moderated the discussion.

Watch the discussion and Q & A here:

(from L to R) Victoria Quinn, Susan Shepherd, Raj Desai, Bruce Cogill, and Meera Shekar

Susan Shepherd described MSF's efforts to treat malnourished children in the Sahel region of Africa.

Meera Shekar, lead nutrition specialist at the World Bank, told the Brookings audience that greater collaboration among donors would make the fight against malnutrition more effective.

MSF’s Dr. Susan Shepherd on World Food Day Advocacy

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Dr. Susan Shepherd, MSF’s Nutrition Coordinator, has been in Washington D.C. this week in advance of World Food Day. She arrived in the capital after having spent the last two months advising MSF’s medical teams in the West African country of Niger. MSF medical teams have treated more than 100,000 malnourished children so far this year and provided 150,000 at-risk children with nutritionally appropriate supplementary foods to prevent them from becoming malnourished.

She came to Washington with Emi Maclean, MSF’s Access to Essential Medicines Coordinator in the US, to offer firsthand accounts of how better alternatives exist today than the products provided through US government’s international food aid assistance program. They met with officials from USAID, members of Congress, and other nongovernmental organizations.

In this interview Dr. Shepherd talks about her frustrations and hopes of reforming US food aid to better meet the nutritional needs of malnourished children in an interview at the USAID offices in Washington. She is now back on the ground in West Africa advising MSF medical teams in the region in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.

Open Letter to the U.S. Government About the Quality of Food Aid

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

The US Standard and A Double Standard
The access to nutritious, enriching foods that the U.S. government provides to young American children is a stark contrast to the nutritionally devoid blend of fortified flour sent to malnourished children outside the country.

Help us rewrite the story of malnutrition.
Sign the petition to change food aid policy.

The Starved for Attention campaign targeted other major food aid donors on World Food Day, urging them to do their part to improve the quality of food sent to malnourished children all over the world. Letters were sent to high-level administrators in the governments of the following countries:

Secretary Hillary Clinton
U.S. Department of State
Administrator Rajiv Shah
U.S. Agency for International Development
Secretary Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture

On the eve of World Food Day 2010, I write on behalf of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to urge the U.S. to stop supplying nutritionally substandard food to malnourished children in developing countries.

The U.S. is by far the world’s largest food assistance donor, accounting for more than half of global food aid in 2009. Its policies and practices are enormously influential in assuring that the right foods reach the right people at the right time. The main beneficiaries of food assistance are primarily young children and women. Yet the fortified foods in U.S. food assistance, including corn soya blend (CSB) and other fortified blended flours (FBF), are of an inappropriate nutritional composition for the primary target beneficiaries—particularly young children. MSF is reiterating a call to ensure that U.S. food aid meets the nutritional needs of young children.

MSF medical teams are frontline witnesses to the human devastation caused by malnutrition. An estimated 195 million children under five are malnourished; malnutrition contributes to one third of the 8 million deaths of children under five each year. In 2010, MSF is operating 120 nutrition programs in 36 countries. Already, our teams in Niger have treated more than 100,000 children for severe acute malnutrition this year. It is no accident that most of these acutely malnourished children are under 2 and fall within the critical window when quality diets make such a difference to health and development. As the U.S. government acknowledged during the launch of the “1000 Days” Campaign during the Millennium Development Goals Summit in September, the first two years of a child’s life provide a critical window of vulnerability and opportunity.

The U.S. government’s stated attention to malnutrition and maternal and child health directly conflicts with U.S. food aid policy. We understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to treating and preventing global childhood malnutrition, but making sure that food provided to children under the age of two meets nutritional needs is a minimum prerequisite.

After the first six months of breastfeeding, the types of complementary foods introduced into the diet are of paramount importance. The composition of U.S. sourced complementary foods provided through international food assistance—CSB—is contrary to overwhelming scientific evidence. It does not provide sufficient nutrients; it is high in anti-nutrients, inhibiting proper digestibility and absorption; and it contains no dairy products, important for growth.1 Diets that do not provide the right blend of high-quality protein, essential fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals can impair growth and development, increase the risk of death from common illnesses, or result in life-long health and developmental damage.

Nutritional experts under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) reaffirmed in October 2008 the current formulations of FBF are not what young children need.2 The World Food Program (WFP) September 2009 nutritional implementation strategy now calls for food assistance received by the beneficiary population to meet their nutritional needs, and places a particular emphasis on children under the age of two. This should be indisputable. In a March 2010 letter to the EU, the nutrition directors of WHO, UNICEF and WFP reiterated the need for a change from FBF to meet the needs of young children.3 However, U.S. and EU policy have not changed.

Countries that have successfully reduced malnutrition—including Mexico, Thailand, the U.S., and many European countries—have done so through programs that ensure young children from the poorest families have access to quality foods. The U.S. government recognizes this. The domestic nutrition program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), provides vouchers to low-income mothers for the purchase of high-value foods like milk, fruit, and eggs. Thus, the U.S. sends inadequate food overseas to vulnerable children that it would not use in its domestic nutrition programs.

U.S. international food assistance has not always been substandard. In the 1960s, when FBF was designed under the leadership of USAID, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Institutes of Heath (NIH), it contained milk powder, and was developed with a specification responding to then available nutritional science. But, when milk surpluses began to dry up in the 1980s and the price of milk escalated, the milk was removed, considerably weakening the nutrition composition of these foods. This practice has not changed.4

The U.S. has taken some steps recently towards moving food assistance to an appropriate nutritional standard, for instance with the USAID emergency responses in Pakistan and Haiti. The 2008 U.S. Farm Bill invites a reformulation of food aid to “meet nutrient needs of target populations.”  The food aid quality review being conducted by the School of Nutrition at Tufts University and an ongoing study of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examining nutrition in U.S. food aid are expected to add further evidence of the need for reform. But why should children have to wait for a catastrophic disaster or the results of further confirmatory studies to receive food assistance tailored to their needs?

We urge you to implement reforms so that addressing the needs of malnourished children is what drives the U.S. government’s international food assistance policy.

We request a meeting on this issue and would be available at your convenience.  Thank you for your time in this important matter.


Sophie Delaunay, Executive Director

U.S Section of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

  1. Shoham, Jeremy, et. al., “Proceedings of the World Health Organization: Consultation on the Management of Moderate Malnutrition in Children under 5 Years of Age.” Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 2009; 30(3): 464-474.
  2. Proceedings published in Food and Nutrition Bulletin 2009; 30 supplement 3.
  3. Joint position WFP/UNICEF/WHO with regard to the management of moderate malnutrition, using improved formulations of fortified blended flours sent to ECHO in March 2010.
  4. Marchione. TJ, History of Food and Nutrition in Emergency Relief Foods Provided through U.S. Government Emergency Food Aid Programs: Policies and Customs Governing Their Formulation, Selection and Distribution. The Journal of Nutrition, (2002) 132: 2104S–2111S.

Starved for Attention in Paris: l’exposition à Paris

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010
L’exposition itinérante “Starved for attention – Nouveau regard sur la malnutrition” s’installe jusqu’au 16 octobre dans les rues de Paris. Au moyen d’un camion-expo. accompagné d’une exposition photo, le public Français découvrira les vidéos de la campagne et sera invité à signer la pétition demandant aux pays donateurs d’adapter l’aide alimentaire aux besoins des jeunes enfants.

13 Octobre: Place du Palais Royal
14 Octobre: Parvis de la gare Montparnasse
16 Octobre: Beaubourg

The Starved for Attention campaign has taken to the streets of Paris this week to raise awareness about the crisis of childhood malnutrition. A mobile exhibit featuring the multimedia documentaries, still images, and petition sign-on will travel to various public sites in Paris through World Food Day on October 16th.

expo starved VA
Uploaded by msf. – News videos from around the world.

Starved for Attention exhibit at the Palais Royal

The Starved for Attention truck on a Paris street.

The truck features four screens showing the Starved for Attention documentaries.

Starved for Attention Advocacy – World Food Day

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Emi Maclean, US Manager of MSF’s Access to Essential Medicines Campaign, talks about her upcoming meetings around World Food Day to advocate for greater resources in the fight against malnutrition.

Advocating for More Resources to Combat Malnutrition

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

MSF’s U.S. Manager of the Access to Essential Medicines Campaign, Emilou Maclean, discusses the advocacy efforts surrounding the Starved for Attention project in this interview.

Emi MacLean is the US Director of the Access to Essential Medicines Campaign. MSF established the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines in 1999 out of a frustration at the lack of adequate medical tools to give quality care to the patients we treat. The Campaign was formed to improve access to existing medical tools (medicines, diagnostics, vaccines) and to stimulate the development of urgently needed better tools for people in low- and middle-income countries.

Emi previously worked as the Deputy Head of Mission at MSF’s HIV/AIDS project in South Africa. She has also worked at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on issues related to Guantánamo and other forms of executive detention, including through direct litigation, legislative reform efforts and international advocacy. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College and Georgetown University Law Center.

Starved for Attention’s African Debut in Ivory Coast

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010
The Starved for Attention campaign was featured at the Nutrition Forum of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in late September.  Health ministers of the 15 ECOWAS countries, representatives from the UN, and international donors had the opportunity to watch the Starved for Attention films in MSF’s tented exhibit space.  Visitors also attended a panel discussion on nutrition featuring health ministers and activists from Niger, Mali, and Brazil.  MSF presented its experiences working on malnutrition in Mali and Niger, and its analysis of the current state of affairs for international funding of nutrition programs. The forum also helped to facilitate an exchange of information and strategies that the Brazilian government has employed to address malnutrition at the national level. The Starved for Attention films will be screened later this month at events in Kenya and Burkina Faso.

MSF's exhibit stand at the ECOWAS forum.

Stephane Doyon, nutrition policy advisor for MSF's Access to Essential Medicines Campaign speaks to delegates to the ECOWAS Nutrition Forum in the "Starved for Attention" exhibit tent.

Jessica Dimmock's portraits of a struggling young mother in Burkina Faso on display in Ivory Coast.

Breaking the Vicious Circle of Malnutrition in Niger

Friday, October 1st, 2010

In July, MSF implemented a new preventative strategy aimed at reducing the persistently high number of acute malnutrition cases in Niger.