|New and Noteworthy in Nutrition (World Bank, 150 pages)|
|No. 28 December 10, 1996|
50. Out of the Mouths of Babes. Those working on nutrition programs involving use of food will welcome President Wolfensohn's kleptocratic oath at the Annual Meetings to, at last, formally address the issue of corruption. For some years now, in South Asia for example, corruption in food distribution programs prevailed, and is increasingly recognized as a kind of cancer. (So much so that one recent project preparation mission to the Subcontinent suggested adding an oncologist to the team.) As far back as the early 1960s John Kenneth Galbraith wrote in Ambassadors Journal about the shocking proportion of relief milk that never got to intended babies: The Catholic Relief Services and the Church World Service are a kind of heavenly gate to an enormous black market," he wrote. "In Calcutta, the milk descends from CRS and CWS through a hierarchy of distributors and each level sells half, more or less, and passes half on to the next grafter for the next division. Not much remains for the ultimate poor after this geometry.
51. Now Hear This. Jim Levinson, who directs the International Food and Nutrition Center at Tufts and is a frequent Bank nutrition consultant, has been selected to give the 1997 Annual Martin J. Forman Memorial Lecture, in Cairo as part of the IVACG meeting next September. Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Director-General of IFPRI, will present the lecture the following year. Those who have not had an opportunity to see this year's excellent Forman Lecture,"Capacity, Capital, and Calories" by Beryl Levinger can obtain it from the HDD Flash Archive.
52. Dry Run. Suddenly there is increased interest in the food technology community about the use of dehydrated foods to reduce the cost of institutional feeding programs. The dehydration process itself increases the cost of the food, but spoilage is less and so are transport costs. In Western Texas, a feeding program for the homeless was able to cut costs when dehydrated foods were introduced because they were so much lighter and cheaper to ship. The program uses 12 pounds of dehydrated food to feed 300 people.
53. Word Perfect. John Mason (former Technical Secretary of the ACC-SCN, now teaching at Tulane), supported by a half dozen other nutrition luminaries, usefully addressed the confusion that sometimes accompanies efforts to explain the nutrition field. To separate it from bio-medical laboratory and clinical nutrition that deals with the individual, the case is now made to differentiate nutrition work in public policy, public action and public goods by calling it Public Nutrition. Relevant to the current discussion of nutrition in the World Bank structure, their paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes that many policies and policy instruments go well beyond the domain of public health.
54. Brussels Sprouts. Nutrition may be given more explicit attention in the second Belgian survival trust fund with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, if IFAD -- as executing agency -- has its way. In the now-completed first tranche, nutrition was spread thinly; a new study proposes a much sharper nutrition focus. IFAD's excellent paper for the Food Summit also gives heavy emphasis to food consumption and nutrition concerns. Those working in agriculture in the Bank could do much worse than take seriously the ideas in this report.
55. Mostly Same Old. Same Old. Although much of the voluminous documentation prepared for the Food Summit was largely predictable -- mostly on the cutting edge of conventional thinking -- one thought worth singling out came from a Summit background paper by Joachim von Braun, formerly with IFPRI and now with the Institute for Food Economics and Consumption Studies at the University of Kiel. "In economic terms," he said, "malnutrition is the cause of the largest worldwide waste of potential economic resources. . . and is probably the biggest failure of market functioning yet to be resolved."Appreciating that malnutrition cannot be overcome without substantial national fiscal costs, he notes that the inability to overcome these problems represents economic costs of much greater magnitude. His punch line: "Focusing on fiscal spending and ignoring the resultant benefits that would be forfeited through inaction," he notes, "yields a very misleading picture."
56. Deans List. Finally out from WHO is the list of health research priorities by Dean Jamison and his Ad Hoc Committee on Health Research Relating to Future Intervention Options. The significance of nutrition, says the report, "is often underestimated because traditional mortality statistics usually attribute deaths to one cause only and those involving infectious diseases are usually described in terms of the infection only. Similarly, the burden of disease that can be directly attributed to malnutrition -- estimated to be about 3.7 percent of the global total -- underestimates its overall impact on health. Since malnutrition predisposes people to infections and may produce long-term disability, it is a powerful risk factor and the indirect cause of a much greater burden. Almost one-sixth of the entire global burden in 1990 is attributed to malnutrition; in Sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion is as much as one-third.
57. Dole Out. A survey of the Washington-based nutrition community found that, on nutrition grounds alone, the choice for President in the U.S. election was not straightforward. Losing candidate Bob Dole had helped build and was long a champion of food stamps and the school lunch program and was supportive of other nutrition-related issues, going back to his years on the Senate Nutrition Committee. In one of the presidential debates he described WIC (the nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children) as his favorite of all government programs. President Clinton, too, had a good record in strengthening Head Start and WIC (and last year he vetoed a bill that would have diluted these programs). But this past summer a huge hole was ripped in the nutrition safety net, with his signing of the new welfare reform legislation. Its predictable consequences (according to studies by The Urban Institute and other reputable think tanks) will be to increase markedly hunger and malnutrition in the U.S., a matter that created considerable consternation in the nutrition community. There are two places in the world where hunger is on the increase, said David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, at the Banks Values in Development weekly breakfast forum on September 20, Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States.
58. So Much for Education Experts. . . Christmas coming up reminds that last holiday season, recounting the story of the Gifts of the Magi, The New York Times asked several prominent Wise Men (and Women) what they would give to a Messiah born now. Diane Ravitch, noted education historian, was quoted as saying she would give the baby a case of infant formula.
59. On the Mark. A Washington Post explanation of why India does so poorly in the Olympic Games: It is hard to groom world-class athletes when inadequate diets stunt the growth of more than half of the country's young children.
60. New Nutrition Indicator. Undernourished boys from Bangladesh are now sought after in Dubai as -- brace yourself -- jockeys for camel racing. Thereason: the lighter the weight, the faster the camel goes, and weights dont come any lighter than undernourished boys from Bangladesh. The boys are so sought after that they are bought from their parents or even kidnapped, this according to Nicholas Cohen, a long-time Bangladesh nutrition watcher.
61. Good Ghali. UN Secretary-General Boutros-Boutros Ghali said at the Food Summit that the fact the world has 200 million undernourished children, with one dying every eight seconds, is a rude shock to our conception of equality and social justice.
62. Worth Quoting: From Tony Measham (SA2RS), in an email discussing the HDD Sector Assistance Strategy paper -- "Having spent the last three years in India, I remain more than ever convinced that we will not get far in fostering human development unless we can bell the under/malnutrition cat."