DHAKA – Rice fortified with essential vitamins and minerals will be made available to 500,000 men, women and children to fight micronutrient deficiencies amongst the poorest in Bangladesh, thanks to a contribution of close to US$5 million from the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The programme is a joint initiative between WFP and the Government of Bangladesh, supported by global science company Royal DSM.
“One of the aims of the Dutch development cooperation in Bangladesh is to improve the nutrition situation in the country, and fortifying rice with micronutrients is an excellent way of doing this. By focusing on women and especially women garment workers, we hope the effect can be magnified further still. The engagement with local industry, coupled with the support from DSM, illustrates the strategy of Dutch cooperation in Bangladesh: going from effective aid to responsible trade,” said Gerben de Jong, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
“Widespread micronutrient deficiencies, especially amongst adolescent girls and women, are a key factor in the persistence of undernutrition in Bangladesh,” says WFP Representative in Bangladesh, Christa Räder. “A woman’s health significantly affects the health and development of her children. Fortified rice delivers essential vitamins and minerals missing in many people’s meals, and can help them get the nutrition they need for an active and healthy life, boosting both this generation and the next.”
Currently, fortified rice is distributed on a trial basis to 3,000 ultra-poor women and their families under the Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) programme in Kurigram and 6,000 disaster-affected families supported by the Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) programme in Satkhira. By 2016, more than 250,000 women, children, and men who rely on these government safety net programmes will receive fortified rice.
In addition, the programme will cover 25,000 schoolchildren who receive cooked school meals and 225,000 people enrolled in the Enhancing Resilience to Natural Disasters and the Effects of Climate Change programme, implemented jointly by the Government and WFP.
WFP will also work with garment factory owners to encourage them to provide fortified rice to their employees, most of whom are women, and aims to facilitate access to fortified rice among the general public. In the long term, market demand for fortified rice will be strengthened and local capacity will be built to manufacture fortified rice kernels and blend them with locally grown rice. The ultimate goal is to make micronutrient-fortified rice widely available throughout the country at a cost close to that of regular milled rice.
Low dietary diversity remains a challenge in Bangladesh and deficiencies in Vitamin A, iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin B12 and folate are wide-spread, with the poorest people most affected. The 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.”
Regular milled rice, the main staple food in Bangladesh and largest part of most people’s meals, 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 at a ratio of 1 to 100.
Malnutrition slows economic growth and perpetuates poverty. Productivity losses to individuals – through underdeveloped physique and cognitive function, deficits in schooling and increased health cost – are estimated at more than 10 percent of lifetime earnings. Improving nutrition can add 2-3% to the GDP in poor countries and drive their economic growth. (World Bank 2006: Repositioning Nutrition as Central to Development – A strategy for Large-Scale Action)
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WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. On average, WFP reaches more than 90 million people with food assistance in 80 countries each year.
For more information please contact:
Christa Räder, Representative, WFP/Bangladesh, Tel. +880-2-9183022-33, email@example.com
Cornelia Pätz, Public Information Officer, WFP/Bangladesh, Tel. +8801755642167, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan Willem Nibbering, First Secretary, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands: email@example.com
Arman Akbary Khan, Advisor Food Security, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands: firstname.lastname@example.org