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Malnourishment

By Matthew Yglesias

"Malnourishment"

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In an unrelated Ethiopia news story, an interesting New York Times feature looks at the problem of malnourished children, especially in Africa, and especially in Ethiopia where there are some relatively new and pretty promising programs in place to try and deal with the problem. As the article observes:

Yet almost half of Ethiopia’s children are malnourished, and most do not die. Some suffer a different fate. Robbed of vital nutrients as children, they grow up stunted and sickly, weaklings in a land that still runs on manual labor. Some become intellectually stunted adults, shorn of as many as 15 I.Q. points, unable to learn or even to concentrate, inclined to drop out of school early.

The result, obviously, is a kind of trap of impoverishment. Poor, badly governed states have a lot of children who suffer from these problems. The next generation grows up to be relatively lacking in human capital as a consequence of childhood malnourishment. And that, in turn, helps continue the country down a path of being poor and badly governed. Obviously, delivering food to hungry people is something rich countries are pretty well-positioned to do, and rich countries (especially the United States) do, in fact, provide a pretty large amount of food aid. But generous provision can cause problems of its own, distorting and undermining local markets in food production and distribution, when what you’d like to achieve is to put the country on a sustainable path where it no longer needs that kind of aid.

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