Australian government announced additional support worth the US $1 million on Thursday to
Pakistan and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to improve nutrition, eradicate hunger, and attain food security through food fortification. The official launch of the National Food Fortification Strategy followed by an announcement which has support from WFP Pakistan, the National Fortification Alliance (NFA), and the Ministry of Health. Their strategy, which defines key actions to overcome micronutrient deficiencies (hidden hunger) in Pakistan, terms the addition of vitamins and minerals to common foods an effective, affordable, and safe measure to lower the burden of micronutrient deficiencies.
According to the survey of 2011 two-thirds of children and more than half of women are suffering from micronutrient deficiencies in Pakistan. This is a serious public health problem resulting in slow physical and cognitive development in children, inferior school performance, and decreased productivity in adults. The problem imposes on Pakistan, an annual economic burden of around US 3.5 billion, equivalent to around 2% of Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The objectives of the strategy is to reach: nearly 70% (more than 125 million) citizens who consume oil and ghee produced by industrial-scale processors with 39% of daily requirements for Vitamin A and 31% for Vitamin D; nearly 50% (more than 90 million) citizens who consume flour from the nation’s industrial roller mills with 95% RNI for Vitamin B12, 68% for folic acid, 38% for iron and almost 100% for zinc; and nearly 90% (or more than 170 million) citizens with 90% daily iodine requirements via iodized salt.
The strategy outlines several outcomes and actions on part of NFA and participating institutions. These include a development of standards for imported inputs; product fortification standards; national technical dossier; grain policy and tax reform; and purchase and distribution of fortified foods by social protection programs. Provision of support to build a capacity of provincial food control agencies; services of national food laboratories; integration of fortification into overall provincial food control structure, activities and annual budgets; and special research to inform challenges to ongoing salt, flour, and oil fortification projects are other key areas of focus outlined in the strategy.
The focus of strategy is on collaborative actions with ongoing salt, flour, and oil projects to develop communication and training programmes; advocate for optimum role of industrial development agencies; build capacity of industry associations; and undertake research to address obstacles. Capacity-building for cost-efficient import, distribution, and financing of fortificants to producers; opportunities to add value for domestic companies and other inputs to fortification; capacity for sustained equipment maintenance and/or replacement of fortification hardware added auctions that establish the strategy.
The major focus of strategy will be on developing research opportunities that address special needs of rural, poor, and high-risk consumers who cannot access fortified foods regularly including additional food vehicles; biofortification; multiple micronutrient powders; and small scale chakki fortification.
“The interventions proposed in the strategy are in line with the government’s priorities to improve the nutritional status of its people. The Ministry of Health is working in close liaison with its valued partners to eliminate hunger, and to attain food security and improved nutrition”, Saira Afzal, Minister of State for Health stated endorsing the strategy and acknowledging the efforts of government of Australia
Acting High Commissioner of Australia to Pakistan Jurek Juszczyk expressed his views as, “The Australian government has been supporting the National and Provincial Fortification Alliances of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh since June 2015. Today, I am proud to announce that we are extending our support for another year.”
Country Director and Representative WFP Pakistan, Finbarr Curran said, “The government of Australia has been a proactive partner in working with us and the government in addressing food security and nutrition in Pakistan. We are confident that this wide-ranging strategy will have a positive long-term impact on the economic development of Pakistan.”