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Uzbekistan: taking the lead on flour fortification

Tashkent, 29 July 2005. Uzbekistan is one of the first countries to benefit from the ‘Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition’s (GAIN) flour fortification programme. Uzbekistan will receive US$2.8 million over a 3 year period for a national campaign to reduce serious health problems amongst women of child-bearing age and children, caused by iron deficiency.

The project will be implemented by the Ministry of Health, JSC Uzdonmahsulot (State bread and grain company), UNICEF and the World Bank (acting as agent of GAIN). It will also involve the support of the Ministry of Public Education, Association of Bread Producers “Toshkent non”, other public organizations and foundations, and crucially, the Mass media.

Small amounts of iron are essential for a mother’s health and children’s growth and development. Without it, iron deficiency has a devastating impact, as it: causes anaemia, a major cause of maternal mortality and of child mortality amongst children born to anaemic mothers; impairs the mental development of 40-60% of the developing world’s infants; debilitates the health of 500 million women worldwide; and leads to more than 60,000 deaths in childbirth worldwide each year.

Today’s event aims to highlight the importance of treating deficiencies, to reach out to the vulnerable population of Uzbekistan, and to celebrate the resumption of flour fortification on a national scale. Flour will be fortified with iron and folic acid (the latter is one of the few nutrients known to prevent neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida - a birth defect resulting from the incorrect development of the spinal cord).

The event will take place at “Galla – Alteg” mill, Elbek 37, Tashkent, at 16.00 (Tashkent time) on 29 July 2005 and will be attended by Mr. R. Kasimov, Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. F. Nazirov, Minister of Health and other senior members of Government; Mr. Kudratov, Chairman of “Uzdonmahsulot” and other representatives from the milling and baking industries; UNICEF Deputy Regional Director, Ms. S. Kianian-Firouzgar, Mr. Martin Raisser, Head of the World Bank in Uzbekistan and other international organizations. Following the mill event a follow-on will take place at the Association of Breadproducers “Toshkent – Non”, Beruni Steet, 88 at 17.20 on 29 July 2005.

The flour fortification project itself is very cost effective. It will cost just 100 Sums per person, per year,  a remarkably low figure considering the long-term benefits both for the health of the population and the potentially positive impact upon economic productivity.

Background to the project

Anaemia, caused by a lack of iron, is one of the common disorders known as micronutrient deficiencies. These disorders have a devastating impact upon women and children. Anemia is a major cause of mental impairment and physical development in children. It is also a significant cause of maternal mortality, causing complications and infections before and during delivery. Moreover, infants born to anaemic mothers also suffer from anaemia, low birthweight or die in some circumstances. In Uzbekistan, it is estimated that 40-60% of 6-24 month-old children are at risk of disrupted brain development, whilst the rate of anaemia is estimated at 60% of women of childbearing age (Damage Assessment Report for Uzbekistan, UNICEF/The Micronutrient Initiative).

Statistics show that the level of consumption of nutritionally valuable products, such as lean meat, milk products, eggs, fish, vegetables and fruits has declined in many CEE/CIS transitional countries. At the same time, the prevailing traditional diet, high in consumption of flour products, potatoes, fatty foods, grain and beans, together with the consumption of tea during meals, which can prevent absorbtion of iron from food, has exacerbated the problem and led to vitamin and microelement deficiencies.

In the absence of a diet containing sufficiently nutritional foods, the most efficient and low-cost method of improving the health of the nation is through the fortification of food products, including the enrichment of flour products with the necessary vitamins and microelements.

The National Programme of Flour Fortification

In November 2004 a grant agreement was signed between the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the World Bank, acting as the agent of GAIN for implementation of the project in Uzbekistan. The project was officially launched in Tashkent on 9 March 2005.

The fortification project is a continuation of an Asian Development Bank (ADB) pilot project, which as part of the existing ‘National Programme of Flour Fortification’, was established in order to improve the quality of flour produced in Uzbekistan. The ADB project led to 850,000 tons of flour being fortified and distributed to consumers.

In order to ensure that the supply of fortified flour can meet the demands of an aware, mobilized population, an appropriate production and legislative environment must be in place. Within the framework of the new project, the number of specially equipped flour mills will increase from 14 to 48. According to preliminary estimations this will enable up to 90% of the population at risk to be covered. However, these former state-run premises account for at most, 60% of flour production. A key element of the project is to work with all flour mills, together with the distribution and retail industry, whilst working with the Government to introduce new laws on flour fortification

For more information:

Anthony Burnett, 
Communication Specialist, UNICEF Uzbekistan, (+998 71) 133 9512 , aburnett@unicef.org

Adiba Ziyavuddinova, Communication Officer, UNICEF Uzbekistan, (+998 71) 133 9512,  aziyavuddinova@unicef.org:

Visit the UNICEF Uzbekistan website: 

www.unicef.org/uzbekistan/

 

 
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