In Afghanistan, micronutrient deficiencies are widespread with 40 percent of women of childbearing age and 44 percent of children under 5 suffering from anaemia.
However, food fortification – the practice of adding key nutrients to staple foods and condiments – is one of the most cost-effective ways that can address these deficiencies in Afghanistan. That is because approximately 70 percent of the energy intake of Afghans is sourced from grains, mainly wheat, a food vehicle which can be easily fortified. On average Afghans consume around 400 grams of wheat flour bread per capita per day—three times higher than the average world consumption.
From October 2015 to December 2017, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supported in-country efforts aimed at creating an enabling environment to increase the availability and access to fortified foods in Afghanistan. This was achieved by strengthening fortification regulations and capacity for monitoring and enforcement, with a special focus on imports of fortified wheat flour and edible oil from neighbouring countries.
The initiative laid the building blocks for a successful fortification program. This included finalizing the national standards, reducing import taxes and duties on premix from 32 percent to 2 percent, establishing a national fortification alliance, organizing a high-level summit with the President’s Office, and undertaking a Fortification Assessment Coverage Toolkit (FACT) survey to understand current and potential contribution of fortified foods.
Today, 18 percent of industrial wheat flour is fortified. When the project started, there was no fortified flour on the market.
Yet, most importantly, earlier this week, the legislation which GAIN helped develop and which had been endorsed by the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), the Ministry of Justice, and The Cabinet – was signed into law by the President. The Afghanistan industry now has a one-year preparatory period before enforcement rolls out.
This good news shows that Afghanistan is on a sustainable road to success to end hidden hunger.
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Published 14 May 2018