The amount of wheat flour consumed in Central Asia is among the highest in the world, and despite the fact that major deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals persist as a public health problem in this region, the fortification of flour is unevenly delivered, and in some countries has not even started.
To date, only Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are taking full advantage of this proven health intervention. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have national fortification mandates, but coverage and compliance need improved. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and have not yet mandated fortification and there is little to no fortified flour in these countries.
As part of ongoing efforts funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to improve structures, regulations, and monitoring of wheat flour fortification with iron and folic acid in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and the broader region, GAIN and its partners are hosting a summit, Fortify Our Future, on 3 and 4 April 2017 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The event is co-convened by GAIN, USAID, the National Commission on Women’s Affairs and Family and Demographic Policy under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as well as the Copenhagen Consensus, the Food Fortification Initiative, the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, the Micronutrient Initiative, UNICEF and World Food Program.
The event will use evidence and case studies to advocate for policy makers to take the next steps toward establishing and/or enforcing mandatory wheat flour fortification in their countries and throughout the region.
“The summit will provide a critical platform to share achievements, challenges and lessons learned. We will highlight the contextual factors which drive reach, impact and sustainability. The latest evidence will be shared on how fortifying flour helps prevent nutritional anaemia and neural tube birth defects, averts healthcare expenditures, and improves cognitive capacity and physical productivity,” says Greg S. Garrett, Director of Food Fortification at GAIN.
The evidence for a newly developed regional standard will be presented, as well as ways that such a standard would facilitate trade. Countries will be supported in taking next steps which could include reviewing and possibly amending existing standards, drafting legislation for mandatory fortification, reviewing and updating regulatory monitoring plans and budgets and catalysing partnerships, which includes linking with the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) agendas, social safety nets and broader food and nutrition themes.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), with support from USAID, has been working in Central Asia on food fortification efforts in Central Asia since early 2013. The efforts started as part of the original principles of USAID’s Silk Road Initiative and the Almaty Consensus to improve integration and trade in the region for overall improvements in human and economic development.
Published 23 February 2017