Cash does not always mean quality food aid

A move by donor countries to provide aid agencies with cash, allowing them the flexibility to source cheaper or more appropriate food in the region or beneficiary country and save on transport and warehousing costs, is also not addressing nutritional needs, according to a new report.

Food aid should include foodstuffs fortified with micronutrients and animal protein. "The emphasis is more on quantity rather than quality, and rarely does the food aid target the most vulnerable groups: children under five, pregnant women and lactating mothers," said Stéphane Doyon, of the international medical charity, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), a co-author of the organization's report, Malnutrition: how much is being spent?

"Barely 1.7 percent of interventions reported as 'development food aid/food security' and 'emergency food aid' between 2004 and 2007 actually address nutrition needs," he said.

The MSF report was published ahead of a new UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) report, which points out that the level of child and maternal undernutrition "remains unacceptable" throughout the world; 90 percent of the developing world's chronically undernourished or stunted children live in Asia and Africa.