In the past, critics of food aid have argued that it encourages dependency, both by undermining incentives to local food production as well as biasing tastes towards imported commodities. However, as we approach the mid-1990s, there is now a growing understanding that -- when managed appropriately - food aid can provide a positive boost to food security, at national and household levels. It can make a significant impact on nutrition, both directly through being chanelled through supplementary feeding programmes, and indirectly as an economic resource as payment for public works schemes, including food-for-work programmes.
Important nutritional issues within food aid, dealt with in this report, include the role of public works and supplementary feeding programmes and the means of protecting refugees' nutrition. Public works providing they are labour-intensive, and preferentially self-targeting to the poorest population groups, particularly women, can have significant pay-offs for nutrition. Within supplementary feeding concerns, the targeting of food with respect to the age and nutrition and health status of the proposed recipient, the effect of such feeding on the growth of children with infection, and the educational aspects of these programmes are described.
Finally, the importance of timely and sustained delivery of acceptable food aid, adequate in quantity and quality, to refugee and displaced populations is paramount where external sources are not available. Within this, the micronutrient requirements of such populations, and the need to ensure their access to a balanced diet is essential.
We hope that this document will be useful to all those concerned with improving nutrition and health in developing countries including specialists in related disciplines from agriculture through economics to social sciences, as well those in nutrition and health.
Dr Abraham Horwitz