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In the countries where the World Food Programme (WFP) works, many people do not have access to a healthy, nutritious diet that provides all the vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy life. Food fortification - enhancing the micronutrient content of commonly eaten foods - provides a cost-effective and life-changing solution.

WFP is increasingly sourcing fortified foods to distribute in our food assistance programming, including general food distribution and school feeding, to reach millions of the world's most vulnerable. We also advocate for governments to adopt fortification policies and support national fortification programmes alongside social protection programmes to provide for those most in need.

Globally, well over 2 billion people are affected by micronutrient deficiencies, known as micronutrient malnutrition or ‘hidden hunger’, as their effects are often not clearly visible. Deficiencies of the essential vitamins and minerals the body needs to maintain optimal health and immunity can cause severe and even life-threatening conditions, contributing to increased maternal and child mortality, impaired immune function, and reduced cognitive and physical development and performance. Micronutrient deficiencies can lead to a loss of up to 4-5 percent of Gross Domestic Product.

The good news is that micronutrient malnutrition is preventable, and food fortification through post-harvest and bio fortification fortification has proven to be an effective strategy towards achieving a nutritious diet. 

Fortification and its success is not new - several countries around the world have been fortifying foods since the 1920s, resulting in the virtual eradication of nutrition-related diseases such as goiter, rickets, beriberi and pellagra. Today, while vitamin and mineral deficiencies affect countries across the globe, the highest rates are found in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Fortification is ranked amongst the top nutrition interventions in terms of delivering a return on investment. A panel of global economic experts, who undertook an analysis for the Copenhagen Consensus Center, described food fortification as essential and cost-effective, and ranked it among the top three international development priorities.

Fortified foods are safe and beneficial for the whole family.  Yet, the amount of micronutrients they provide to the most nutritionally vulnerable, such as young children, may not be enough, due to their relatively high needs compared to how much staple food they consume. To reduce this nutrient gap among specific target groups, specialized nutritious foods have been developed, such as fortified cereal blends, lipid-based nutrient supplements and micronutrient powders. They are fortified to meet the higher nutrient needs of specific target groups, such as children and pregnant and breastfeeding women, and can be added to their regular diet to improve micronutrient content, ensuring adequate intake for growth and development.

At the most recent Nutrition for Growth Summit in Tokyo in 2021, WFP committed to increasing the proportion of fortified wheat flour, maize meal and rice distributed in its programmes from 60 percent in 2020 to 80 percent in 2025. Simultaneously, WFP will work with at least 40 countries to ensure national systems can bring fortified foods within reach of the most vulnerable families.

Micronutrient deficiencies place a heavy burden on the health and economy of nations-3

 

A solution for each country

Bangladesh: fortified rice in social safety nets & retail
Since 2013, Bangladesh has seen an increase from 30,000 to over 13 million people receiving fortified rice through social assistance programs. This has been achieved through WFP working with the Government of Bangladesh and rice millers to build local production capacity and strengthen the supply chain for fortified rice alongside capacity building activities to strengthen the network between producers, retailers and consumers of fortified rice. WFP continues to support the government while also providing technical assistance to more than 280 retailers in Dhaka and Sirajganj to bring fortified rice to the open market. 
Peru: fortified rice in school feeding and beyond
In 2019, 2.4 million children were reached in the first year of Peru introducing fortified rice into its national school feeding programme, Qali Warma. When the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools to close, the government transitioned to the provision of take-home rations that included fortified rice – mitigating the risk of children and their family members facing malnutrition and the associated negative impact on their immune systems. Fortified rice has also been included in the food basket that forms part of the early childhood programme, Cuna Más, which targets children under 3 years of age. In August 2021 Peru passed the Fortified Rice Law, which will provide access to fortified rice for all Peruvians.
Sudan: Building an enabling environment for fortification
WFP is supporting the creation of an enabling legislative and policy environment for food fortification through partnership with WHO and the Government of Sudan. In 2018, WFP supported the development of the National Micronutrient Strategy, and subsequently, the review of flour fortification standards, and adoption of edible oil standards. This culminatied in the enactment of mandatory fortification regulations for wheat flour and salt. WFP has also established a potassium iodate revolving fund to ensure access for salt industries.  In 2019, WFP signed a memorandum of understanding with 14 stakeholders to achieve mandatory, sustainable universal salt iodization in Sudan, and has already succeeded in convincing 11 out of 18 states to enact legislation to ban the sale of non-iodized salt. Simultaneously, WFP has supported the development and adoption of a food fortification logo, flour fortification guidelines and universal salt iodization monitoring guidelines.