Fortified Rice Enhances Nutrition Benefits Of Social Safety Nets For The Poorest In Bangladesh

Published on 31 July 2013

DHAKA – Poor rural villagers in Bangladesh are now receiving rice fortified with essential vitamins and minerals, under a new joint initiative between the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Bangladesh, supported by the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and global science company Royal DSM.

“The Kingdom of the Netherlands is very happy to fund this initiative and to work together with the Government of Bangladesh, WFP and DSM,” said Gerben de Jong, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, Tariq-ul Islam, and the WFP Representative in Bangladesh, Christa Räder, visited rice production and distribution sites in Kurigram today.

“Rice is Bangladesh’s most important staple food – it is the largest part of most people’s daily diet,” said Räder. “Fortified rice can deliver essential vitamins and minerals missing in many people’s meals, and can help ensure the poorest get the nutrition they need for an active and healthy life.”

Regular milled rice is low in micronutrients and serves primarily as a source of carbohydrates.  Fortified rice kernels developed by DSM are enhanced with essential micronutrients, but look, taste and cook like ordinary rice. These kernels are combined with regular rice; local millers in Kurigram and Satkhira have been engaged for this purpose.

Currently, the fortified rice is distributed to 3,000 women under the Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) programme in Kurigram Sadar Upazila. In the coming weeks 6,000 people registered in the government’s Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) programme in Satkhira will also receive fortified rice. Women and men from both locations will take part in an acceptability trial conducted in collaboration with the development organisation BRAC.

The government provides rice to millions of poor people every year through social safety net programmes.   The VGD programme alone supports 750,000 ultra-poor women in 482 upazilas across Bangladesh. Over two years, the women receive 30 kg of rice every month as well as training on life skills, income generation, savings and access to credit.

“The VGD programme reaches out to the poorest people in rural areas to improve their food security and nutritional status,” said Tariq-ul Islam of the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs. “Fortified rice has enormous potential in addressing wide-spread micronutrient deficiencies among those most in need.”

“Ultimately, we hope to use fortified rice in all WFP-assisted programmes in Bangladesh and support the government to continue to integrate it in national social safety nets,” Räder said.

Low dietary diversity remains a problem in Bangladesh and deficiencies in Vitamin A, iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin B12 and folate are wide-spread, with the poorest people most affected. The recent Bangladesh Poverty Assessment (2013) by the World Bank showed no significant change in dietary diversity even as the country experienced a significant decline in poverty. The National Micronutrient Survey concluded that “the population of Bangladesh is still well short of the Daily Recommended Allowance of food intake for key micronutrients.”

“We’re very proud to be involved in this project. Our rice fortification technology offers unique opportunities to improve the nutritional status of the people of Bangladesh - without asking them to change their diet - and we look forward to sharing our learning and successes with other countries across Asia,” said Oswaldo da Costa e Silva, Senior Director, Nutrition Improvement Program, DSM.

WFP and DSM have worked together since 2007 to develop sustainable and cost effective nutrition solutions for the hungry poor. DSM supports WFP’s strategic approach to include fortified rice in its programmes and maximize the potential of fortified rice in tackling malnutrition.

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WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. Last year, WFP reached more than 97 million people in 80 countries with food assistance.
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For more information please contact (email address:
Christa Räder, Representative, WFP/Bangladesh, Tel. +880-2-9183022-33
Cornelia Pätz, Public Information Officer, WFP/Bangladesh, Tel. +8801755642167