SUN Countries fortifying the future of their communities

June 7, 2023 - Last update: June 8, 2023

SUN Countries are increasingly leveraging food fortification as an essential tool in the ongoing struggle against malnutrition. By supplementing widely consumed foods with essential vitamins and minerals, fortification enhances their nutritional value and helps curb pervasive malnutrition.

While several SUN Countries have adopted food fortification initiatives, many others could significantly benefit from these programs due to their alarmingly high malnutrition rates. Challenges such as lack of thorough monitoring, insufficient enforcement, standard premix quality, and a lack of capacity or equipment have acted as roadblocks, curtailing the effectiveness of these programmes.

In a bid to highlight and tackle fortification challenges, the nutrition community championed a resolution on food fortification which was adopted by the 76th World Health Assembly in Geneva. Titled "Accelerating efforts to prevent micronutrient deficiencies and their consequences, including spina bifida and other neural tube defects, through safe and effective food fortification,"  this resolution was first proposed by the Colombian government. It aims to broaden fortification beyond folic acid by including essential micronutrients, thereby mitigating birth defects and enhancing public health. The resolution urges Member States to fortify and widen their food fortification programs and solicits technical assistance and guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO)., 

This resolution, coupled with the biennial reporting opportunities it presents, holds significant potential to address fortification challenges and expand programmes to include additional foods and micronutrients as necessary. It provides a rare opportunity for food fortification to garner global attention and be deployed to its full potential.

Ahead of and during the World Health Assembly, several SUN countries have provided insights into their food fortification programmes.  

Côte d'Ivoire, in addition to fortifying pregnant women with drugs, deworming children and providing nutritional education, has been committed to the mandatory fortification of staple foods since 1994. A pilot project is currently underway to fortify rice with iron and folic acid.” said Dr Patricia N’Goran, SUN Focal Point for Cote d’Ivoire, during her intervention before the World Health Assembly.

Rwanda, known for its commitment to improving nutrition, boasts Africa Improved Foods (AIF), a premier manufacturer of high-quality nutritious foods. AIF, a joint venture between the Government of Rwanda, the World Food Programme (WFP), and DSM (a Dutch multinational corporation active in the fields of health and nutrition), works with over 150,000 smallholder farmers to produce fortified porridge flour enriched with milk, vitamins, and minerals, targeting vulnerable populations. These fortified products not only support communities in Rwanda but also benefit Kenya and Ethiopia through WFP's nutrition programmes. Rwanda is also at the forefront of promoting food fortification at the household level.

Cameroon initiated its food fortification program in 2009 to address micronutrient deficiencies by producing fortified wheat flour and vegetable oils. However, a survey conducted in 2019 revealed that the majority of wheat flour on the market was non-compliant or not fortified, while imported oils lacked fortification labels. To rectify this situation, the country has issued a report recommending strengthened controls, stakeholder awareness of quality requirements, exploration of additional fortification vehicles, and regional expansion. The report also acknowledged the need for broader programme coverage and recognition of its achievements. 

Guinea's Government has implemented a national fortification programme targeting staple foods like wheat flour, maize flour, and vegetable oil. Through mandatory fortification, these food items are enriched with key vitamins and minerals such as iron, folic acid, and vitamin A, effectively addressing micronutrient deficiencies. Guinea has established a robust regulatory framework to ensure compliance with fortification standards and has engaged relevant stakeholders, including the private sector, to facilitate the programme's implementation and monitoring.

Mozambique recently launched its second national food fortification strategy (2023-2027) on March 29, 2023. The strategy outlines priorities for the next five years, including regulation expansion of corn flour by small-scale mills, database creation, ensuring premix supply, and raising awareness for food fortification.

Haiti made a significant advancement in fortification in 2017 by officially publishing its Food Fortification Law, which mandates the fortification of salt, wheat flour, and vegetable oil. Moreover, the country has been progressing with the fortification  of  micronutrient powders at the household over two decades.

Chad has made fortification of local and imported foods one of its strategic priorities, as specified in the national policy on nutrition and food security (2014-2025).  Since 2016, the Government and its UN Partner-agencies have implemented two key initiatives: “Support for Women Producers of Fortified Foods” (AFORT), and the “Local Production of Complementary Fortified Food” (PRO-FORT). The objective of the projects is to strengthen the resilience of the most vulnerable households by improving access, availability, and use of highly nutritious foods. The projects have reached 331 farmers' organizations representing 1,6483 smallholder producers, 52% of whom are women, whose capacities have been strengthened in terms of good agricultural practices. The projects have also improved the value chains for maize, niébé, soybean and groundnuts, and four semi-industrial production units have been set up with an integrated quality control system.

As SUN Countries continue to fortify their communities through food fortification, the hope is that these initiatives will facilitate learning and inspire other nations to embrace this powerful intervention to combat malnutrition.