Languages
Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 16:53 UK

UN withdraws Indian energy food

Anbarasan Ethirajan
BBC News

Children in India
Campaigners say that India's growth is not trickling down

The UN says it has withdrawn a high energy food for children in India after the government said it had been distributed without permission.

A senior official from the UN's children agency, Unicef, told the BBC that malnourished children would now be given a locally available product.

He said this would be instead of the imported ready-to-use therapeutic food.

Unicef had been distributing the food, made of peanut paste, to malnourished children in two Indian states.

It said food provided locally in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh was not sufficient for children in a critical condition.

Malnourished children

Unicef says the Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) is a high energy relief treatment given to thousands of severely malnourished children around the world.

Indian workers with rice
The government says improvements have been made to food distribution

It says children with acute malnutrition require life-saving treatment, which is sanctioned by the World Health Organisation.

India is home to the greatest number of malnourished children in the world and it is estimated that more than half of them are in the two states.

Unicef was asked by the two state governments to distribute the high-energy peanut paste to affected children in two provinces. It imported about $880,000 worth of the food for distribution.

"The government of India was not aware of this, it felt that it was not adequately tested. So they have asked us to take it out of India, which we have now done," Daniel Toole, Unicef's regional director for South Asia told the BBC.

The agency has now re-exported the therapeutic food to Afghanistan and Madagascar, where it has been used for a long time.

Indian officials say that imported peanut paste is expensive and that they are not convinced about its effectiveness. They want the product to be approved by the Indian health ministry first.

'Easier'

"Nothing should come behind our back. Nothing should be done in the name of emergency when we have not declared an emergency," Shreeranjan, the joint secretary of the Ministry of Women and Child Development told the Reuters news agency.

Indian officials have told Unicef to use locally available alternatives like therapeutic milk. But there are differences between the two products.

"What we have seen in parts of Sri Lanka, Pakistan and in Africa is that... peanut paste for children is a little bit slower but it is much more steady and easier. And mothers can take it home even after they start the treatment," Mr Toole said.

In addition, the food does not require refrigeration or added water.

Health campaigners have criticised the Indian government's decision saying it is an over-reaction. They say despite various nationwide measures to end malnutrition, the country is still facing the problem.

The country's booming economic growth, they say, is not trickling down to millions of poor.



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
S Asia hunger 'at 40-year high'
02 Jun 09 |  South Asia
'Hunger critical' in South Asia
13 Oct 06 |  South Asia
Spotlight on India's malnourished children
02 May 06 |  South Asia
Children 'failed' over nutrition
01 May 06 |  Health
In pictures: Feeding the world
01 May 06 |  In Pictures
Better diet 'would save millions'
17 Jun 04 |  Health
Nutrition link to premature birth
25 Apr 03 |  Health

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific