Fortified wheat flour keeps tribal children healthy
Published on 25 February 2011

Durga Bai serving fortified chapattis to her children. (Copyrigth:WFP/Rakesh Shahdeo)

WFP's joint project with the Government of Madhya Pradesh seeks to reduce the incidence of anaemia among the marginalised Sahariya tribe by providing this impoverised community with access to free fortification of wheat flour

Durga Bai, 40, and Nandlal Adiwasi, 46, have had no formal education and had never heard of fortification before. But the couple now knows that something extremely useful is going into their `atta’ (wheat flour) and the `new’ chapattis are keeping their children healthy. “None of my children have fallen ill in the past two months. I am quite confident that our chapattis are keeping them well,” said Durga Bai, the mother. The couple and their nine children have always had wheat flour chapattis as their staple food. But since December 2010, the family has been consuming chapattis made from flour fortified with iron and micronutrients. These chapattis supply the family with around 50 percent of the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of iron and folic acid, an essential micronutrient needed for warding off anaemia. 

Durga Bai’s family living in Teh Village in district Shivpuri, is among the 150,000 members of the highly vulnerable Sahariya tribe that is known to suffer from severe anaemia and low life expectancy due to extreme poverty and a poor diet. In order to help them get access to an iron-rich diet, WFP along with the Tribal Welfare Department of the Government of Madhya Pradesh is implementing a project to provide fortified wheat flour. Now, Sahariyas get their wheat to the local millers who, after grinding it to flour, add an iron fortificant in a pre-defined proportion. The fortificant, which has been donated by WFP private sector partner AkzoNobel, does not change the colour, smell or taste of the flour.

An intensive information campaign has helped to convince the tribe members about the benefits of fortifying their flour at no cost. In fact, Durga Bai is so pleased about the initiative that she has expressed her willingness to become a voluntary motivator and help other members of her community understand the importance of participating in the project.