Food Fortification Success Requires Concerted Efforts

From left: CAS Osiany, Head, Department of Family Health, Minstry of Health, Dr. Issak Bashir, Dr. Aman and Head, Division of Nutrition and Dietetics, Ministry of Health, Ms. Veronica Kirigo during the launch of National Training Guideline on Flour Fortification

“We are not where we used to be, but we have not reached where we want to be.” This was the rallying call of the stakeholders during the 2nd Kenya National Food fortification summit held June 29-30, 2021.

The summit running under the theme: “Creating an Enabling Environment for Food Fortification in Kenya” was organized to assess the progress made compared to challenges that were highlighted during the 2018 summit.

The summit, organised by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the European Union, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and Nutrition International, attracted participants from government, academia, development partners, premix suppliers, consumer organisations Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and private sector.

As the stakeholders took stock of the milestones made since the first summit held in 2018, the summit established a number of key achievements through the Kenya National Food Fortification Alliance.

These gains included; successful implementation of Universal Salt Iodization Programme with over 99% of households using adequately iodized salt; reduction of goitre prevalence to less than 6%; development and implementation of fortification guidelines and regulatory framework; registration of premix suppliers and establishment of food fortification database.

Chief Administrative Secretary, Dr. Rashid Abdi Aman, appreciated the organizers of the summit saying, food fortification is a proven, safe and cost-effective strategy for improving diets and the prevention and control of micronutrient deficiencies.

“We need to support food fortification strategy in the country due to its nutritional sustainability and its potential to reach wider population coverage without changes in existing dietary patterns,” said, Dr. Aman who represented the Cabinet Secretary of Health, Mutahi Kagwe.

Panel discussion of food fortification in Kenya

Dr. Aman said as much as there has been good progress in the food fortification initiatives, more needs to be done, adding that concerted efforts are needed in eliminating micronutrient deficiencies for sustainable development.

In keeping with the theme of the summit, Dr. Aman said the resolutions will be vital in securing a fortification commitment at the United Nation Food System Summit (FSS) and the Nutrition Growth Summit (N4G) to be held in September and December this year, respectively.

While lauding the European Union for support towards “Strengthening the Kenya National Food Fortification Programme,” JKUAT-EU Funded Food Fortification Project Coordinator, Prof. Daniel Sila said, JKUAT in collaboration with Ministry of Health and other partners has implemented the programme since 2017.

“Through the Programme, we have been able to establish a database on food fortification that will be instrumental in informing policy and implementation,” said Prof. Sila.

Prof Sila also said the programme has built the capacity of 156 maize millers and 270 public health officers across the country strengthening the regulatory efforts of food fortification in the country.

Prof. Sila further informed the participants that the Programme has established a food fortification reference laboratory at JKUAT, to improve local capacity to monitor and evaluate the level of compliance of different fortified food products to the national standards.

The programme is funded to the tune of Kshs. 350 Million by the European Union to strengthen Kenya’s efforts to fortify staple foods and improve the health and nutritional status of the poor and vulnerable groups.

A panel discussion during the summit established that ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms is about more than securing enough food to survive. Despite the effort made in the country, malnutrition has remained a significant public health challenge causing stunting and wasting in children and overweight and obesity, especially among pregnant women.

The panel discussion moderated by Prof. Daniel Sila, underscored the importance of concerted effort and multi-sectoral approaches to tackle the burden of malnutrition and increase food fortification efforts for a nourished country.

A cross-section of the stakeholders follow proceedings during the summit

The panel stressed the importance of food fortification capacity building for Public Health Officers, millers and county officials adding that food fortification dialogue should trickle down to the counties with actionable implementation strategies to end malnutrition in the country.

The summit was also addressed by Principal Secretary, State Department for Agricultural Research, Prof. Hamadi Boga, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Industrialization, Trade & Enterprise Development, David Osiany representing their respective Cabinet Secretaries among other development partners and stakeholders.

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