As part of efforts to tackle one of Africa’s major health concerns, malnutrition, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has provided a $10 million grant for food fortification in Nigeria, Tanzania andKenya.
The grant, which is being managed by TechnoServe, an international nonprofit organisation that promotes business solutions to poverty in developing world, is aimed at taking a holistic approach to strengthening enabling environment that promotes competitive, healthy and effective production of fortified foods; and to address the technical challenges faced by processors in the three countries.
Stating this during the launch of Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods in Lagos recently, the Head of Nutrition, BMGF, Mr. Shawn Buker, said the four-year support will go a long way in addressing micronutrient deficiencies in Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya.
He said while lack of such nutrients have been fingered as major health issues for children, they are also responsible for the reduction of intelligent quotient by 10 to 15 per cent, and in turn cuts down gross domestic products of a country.
“To set the context; undernutrition is the cause of 45 per cent of under-five mortality. About half of under-five deaths are linked to undernutrition. There are many ways to tackle malnutrition, but one fundamental way to ensure that the food the people take in essential vitamins and minerals; vitamin A, iodine, folic acid, zinc is through large scale food fortification.”
He called on Nigerian Government, development partners, civil societies and the press to work towards the target of having global and acceptable standards of food fortification in the country.
The Deputy Governor, Kano State, Prof. Hafiz Abubakar, in his speech said the launch was timely, adding that, even though micro nutrients affect all age brackets, children were most hit.
Abubakar, who was represented by the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Kano State, Dr. Yusuf Gawuna said with about three million children dying due to malnutrition, all hands must be on deck to jointly tackle the scourge. “Micronutrients such as iron, vitamin A, and others are very necessary for global development, and Nigeria will not be left behind,” he added.
The launch was attended by representatives of the Ministers of Agriculture, Health, Industry, Trade and Investment , Budget and National Planning. Donors at the event included USAID, DFID, UNICEF, EU, ECOWAS, World Bank and the Aliko Dangote Foundation.