Activism brings fortified flour to Suusamyr in Kyrgyzstan
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Ainagul Muratalieva has never seriously thought about fortification. To her, a simple sense of fullness was equal to good nutrition. She is the head of a local community-based nongovernmental organisation. Ainagul and her family live in the remote village of Kozhomgul in Suusamyr valley, located behind the Too-Ashuu mountain pass, 20 km away from the road.
Although it may seem that her village is located not far from the road, it is hard to reach the nearest large settlement – there is no regular transport and people have to take taxis, as the road to the nearest large settlement takes 2 hours and it is very expensive to get there.
In 2016, in Kozhomgul village representatives of KACS SUN – a civil society network within the national multi-stakeholder platform (MSP) for nutrition – arranged a workshop for their members on good nutrition – also focusing on the importance of fortified flour.
According to Tursun Mamyrbaeva, a nutrition specialist, “flour fortification is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to prevent iron, zinc and folic acid deficiencies. It has been proven that flour fortification reduces the risk of iron deficiency and anaemia and decreases the incidence of neural tube defects in children by between 30 and 70 per cent”.
Ainagul participated in this workshop and found out that there is no fortified flour available in her and neighboring villages, despite the Kyrgyz Law “On the mandatory fortification of baking flour”. After the workshop, village activists took the decision that their families should have the opportunity to buy fortified flour. Ainagul and her friends tried to negotiate with shop sellers in 7 ayil okmotus (municipalities) to only supply fortified flour.
Sellers arranged supply of fortified flour, but at a very high price. Then, the women decided to ask the taxi drivers to deliver fortified flour. However, the taxi drivers charged 100 Kyrgyz Som for delivery of each flour bag. Ainagul almost gave up. Luckily, KACS SUN, offered their help.
The MSP unites civil society organisations, academia, public and international organisation and businesses, ensuring a fast exchange of information, access to each other’s resources and the opportunity to share a common language and joint actions.
For a few months, the Civil Society Alliance negotiated with the Millers’ Association regarding the lack of fortified flour. After the inspection of shops in 7 villages, they compared the size of the population and their flour needs. The Chairperson of the Millers’ Association, Rustam Zhunushev, discovered those manufacturers ready to help residents of the 7 villages in Suusamyr ayil okmotu (municipality). Akun, the largest producing flour company, came to the rescue.
Since autumn 2017, Ainagul has collected information about the flour required for shops, she gives this information to Akun, and she acts as the guarantor, to ensure the company gets the profits. In each village, Ainagul has help.
Today, fortified flour is sold in all 7 villages. Whereas, during the first month, the residents purchased 1,5 tons of fortified flour, they now consume 7 tons of fortified flour each month, and prices have dropped significantly.
All this has become possible due to advocacy of the SUN Civil Society Alliance among the residents of 7 villages in Suusamyr ayil okmotu. They have helped residents realise the importance of good health, especially, among mothers and children, through the consumption of flour fortified with iron, zinc and folic acid. Moreover, this has become a reality, and an important result for the MSP, which brings together the Government, civil society and businesses.