Micronutrient deficiencies, which are common in Mozambique, represent a largely hidden but often devastating form of malnutrition. In March, the Government of Mozambique launched the national food fortification programme aimed at improving the overall health of Mozambicans, especially vulnerable groups, by reducing vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
At the opening of a national conference on food fortification on 15 March, the Vice Minister of Health Nazira Abdula, explained that food fortification is considered to be one of the most cost-effective ways of addressing widespread deficiencies, and it has the added advantage of contributing to the development of local production.
The launch of the programme is a significant step towards addressing the severe vitamin and mineral deficiency problem in Mozambique. Every year, deficiencies in iron, vitamin A and iodine cost the country more than US$ 119 million; around 1.2 % of the country’s GDP. Beyond the economic losses, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are a significant contributor to chronic malnutrition which affects 44% of children under five.
“It is an honour for the UN to work hand in hand with the government and other developmental partners to solve the causes of hidden hunger through sustainable and cost-efficient market-based solutions,” said WFP Country Director Lola Castro, who represented the UN at the launch.
Because of its expertise in the production and use of fortified foods, WFP is working with the government to expand fortified food support programmes for children, pregnant and breast-feeding women, and HIV infected populations. WFP also assisted in the design of a preventative programme for children under the age of two in provinces with high stunting prevalence, and supported the establishment of a food voucher programme for people with HIV/AIDS. Alongside this clinical work, WFP helps small farmers’ associations to sell their produce, link up with food processors and enhance the quality of their produce through control measures for food processing and fortification.
As part of the programme framework, the Government of Mozambique requested technical support from WFP to help increase the production, distribution and availability of affordable fortified foods, especially wheat flour, maize and oil, in order to reduce malnutrition and boost national agricultural development. Engagement in policy discussions and strategies on improving access of fortified food through social marketing will be part of this process.
World without malnutrition
Mozambique’s national fortification programme, which is funded mainly by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), will be implemented by the Food Fortification National Committee (CONFAM), chaired by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, co-chaired by the Ministry of Health and supported by UN agencies, NGOs and the private sector. GAIN is an alliance driven by the vision of a world without malnutrition. GAIN mobilizes public-private partnerships and provides financial and technical support to deliver healthier foods and supplements to those people most at risk.
Without doubt, adding value to food, adds value to lives and WFP hopes in the future to add value to the lives of thousands of children in the coming years.