The European Union has announced €3.2 Million (KES 350 Million) support to complement an integrated approach to improve the health and nutritional status of the poor and vulnerable groups in Kenya through fortification of common staple foods. The 6-year “Strengthening the Kenya National Food Fortification Programme,” will be implemented by the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in partnership with the Ministry of Health and other partners to address gaps in food fortification in Kenya.
Besides most fortified flours being beyond the reach of the poor and vulnerable households, packaged flour is not routinely consumed by rural and urban poor households. “The project aims to strengthen the capacity of cereal millers to deliver micronutrient rich staple foods to target populations, particularly women, girls and children who are most vulnerable to malnutrition,” EU Delegation in Kenya, Head of Cooperation, Erik Habers said during the launch of the programme at the Safari Park Hotel, Thursday, April 27.
JKUAT will collaborate with the Kenya National Food Fortification Alliance (KNFFA), a public-private partnership led by the Ministry of Health that brings together all key stakeholders involved in food fortification including the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Premix-Suppliers, industrial players (flour, oil, salt) and consumer organisations.
Food fortification with single or multiple micronutrients has been reported to improve nutrition and health standards of entire populations. However, rural and urban poor communities in many cases source their flour from Micro Small and Medium Scale Millers (MSMM) most of whom lack the capacity to fortify flours. In a speech read by Dr. Sheikh Mohamed, Head of Family Health Division, Ministry of Health, Cabinet Secretary Dr. Cleopha Mailu, said the initiative will strengthen governance and the legal framework for the National Fortification Programme which makes enrichment of maize and wheat flours mandatory.
“The programme will address governance and coordination structures to ensure the implementation of new and existing fortification mechanisms, as well as coordination challenges as the Ministry has mainly worked with large scale millers leaving out the micro and small scale millers,” affirmed Dr. Mailu.
Kenya has made significant progress towards achieving the World Health Assembly (WHA) nutrition targets but the burden of malnutrition is still high and continues to be the single greatest contributor to child mortality. The pre-pregnancy nutrition status of a woman is an important determinant of pregnancy outcomes and girls and children are at risk of malnutrition, especially iron and protein deficiency.
Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mabel Imbuga, said, the implementation of new legislation on mandatory fortification of maize and wheat flours poses many challenges to the millers, government agencies, regulatory bodies, premix suppliers, raising concerns related to health risks to the Kenyan consumers. Currently, Prof. Imbuga added, “most of the fortified flours are packaged flours that are not consumed daily by the poor and vulnerable households in Kenya because they are either expensive or not accessible to them.”
Project Coordinator Dr. Daniel Sila reported that small and medium scale millers have limited access to fortification equipment and have minimal knowledge and skills on how to fortify food, source fortificant premixes, as well as conducting sample analysis. To tackle this, “JKUAT will spearhead research on how to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of millers to ensure adequate and safe levels of micronutrients in food products as well as training Premix suppliers on micronutrient dosing, validation analysis of content and composition of fortificants in the market,” Dr. Sila explained.