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Flour fortification to reduce anaemia and birth defects

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) has announced the commitment of US$3 million to WFP to work with the Egyptian Government on the fortification of wheat flour with folic acid and iron.

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) has announced the commitment of US$3 million to WFP to work with the Egyptian Government on the fortification of wheat flour with folic acid and iron.

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) has announced the commitment of US$3 million to WFP to work with the Egyptian Government on the fortification of wheat flour with folic acid and iron.

Fortification with these two essential nutrients should substantially reduce widespread anemia, currently estimated to afflict 60 percent of the population in the most impoverished parts of the country, and damage to maternal and infant health, including serious birth defects because of folic acid deficiency.

Improving health

The wheat flour is widely used in Egypt to make baladi bread – the most popular bread in Egypt. Addition of the two nutrients will therefore improve the health of millions of consumers, including some of the poorest segment of the Egyptian society.

GAIN and WFP have recently signed a cooperation agreement with the Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity, which is in charge of this ambitious plan. The agreement was signed by Minister of Social Solidarity, Ali Meselhi, WFP Representative in Egypt Bishow Parajuli, and the Executive Director of GAIN, Marc Van Ameringen.

“We are constantly seeking new ways to improve the diet of millions of Egyptians as a way to maintain a healthy life. We are confident that fortifying the baladi bread eaten by almost everyone is a right step on this road,” said Meselhi, the Minister of Social Solidarity.

First phase

The Government of Egypt has allocated US$20 million to the five-year project. The GAIN contribution will enable WFP to purchase fortification equipment and nutrients for the first phase of the programme, and to help raise public awareness about proper nutrition and the health benefits of consuming fortified bread.

“We welcome the commitment and major contribution of the Egyptian Government to this nation-wide fortification programme, and the collaboration with WFP is a key to success”, said Van Ameringen, Executive Director of GAIN.

“The GAIN contribution catalyses the implementation of this program to improve public health, and helps involve the milling industry to deliver long-term health benefits through fortified flour. It is this emphasis on involving businesses in the effort to improve public health that put GAIN at the forefront of tackling malnutrition worldwide,” said Van Ameringen.

Technical assistance

“WFP has a long history of providing food assistance to food-insecure communities in Egypt and improving their nutritional status continues to be one of our key objectives,” said Parajuli, WFP Egypt Country Director.

The technical assistance of WFP will establish and equip scientific labs for food analysis to ensure the quality of the flour.

This will take place in a collaborative effort among WFP, Ministry of Social Solidarity, Ministry of Health, National Nutrition Institute, the Holding Company for Food Industries and other stakeholders.

Implementation

Appropriate programmes will also be conducted to the staff of concerned ministries and bodies, social workers and NGOs. The first phase of the project will start in the governorates of Sharqiya, Fayoum and Aswan, while the second extends coverage to seven more governorates, then a nationwide coverage.

The project was discussed and approved by legislative and executive bodies in Egypt. The Egyptian Cabinet of Ministers acknowledged its importance through appropriate financial allocations.

The project was also widely discussed during a lengthy hearing at the health committee of the People's Assembly (Parliament), which called for a swift implementation.

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