Uzbekistan tackles iron deficiency
As part of the launch of ‘Progress for Children No.4: A Report Card on Nutrition’, UNICEF is featuring a series of stories focusing on successful initiatives that can help counter the many threats to children's nutritional status.
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, June 2006 – To reduce serious nutritional deficiencies among women and children, the Government of Uzbekistan, aided by industry contributions and international support, is implementing a national flour fortification programme that began in 2005, financed by a $2.8 million grant over a three-year period.
Studies in Uzbekistan estimate that almost 44 per cent of children under two years of age are anaemic, increasing their likelihood of falling sick, and of having poor school attendance and performance. High rates of anaemia are also found among women of childbearing age.
“Iron-deficiency anaemia is a major cause of death amongst children at birth,” UNICEF Deputy Regional Director Shahnaz Kianian-Firouzgar said while visiting the country. “As well as having a debilitating impact on the health of children and women, it impacts the development of the brain, the productivity of adults and mental development in children. By addressing this deficiency in children, we can help them to realize their full potential for development and contribution to society.”
‘Spirit of collaboration’
The flour fortification programme is implemented by the Uzbekistan Ministry of Health, with support from the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the World Bank and UNICEF. Plans include increasing the number of formerly state-run mills equipped to produce fortified flour from 14 to 48, and expanding the process to additional privately owned mills.
The programme aims to reach about 30 per cent of the overall population in its third year – an estimated 8 million people who are at risk of iron-deficiency anaemia. It is cost-effective, requiring only 120 Sums (around 10 cents) per person, per year.
The World Bank’s Country Manager for Uzbekistan, Martin Raiser, said the project is an important part of a $40 million health initiative in the country. Mr. Raiser emphasized the need for the participation of all flour producers in Uzbekistan and praised the “spirit of collaboration” among the stakeholders.
Uzbekistan was the fourth country to benefit from a large-scale flour fortification programme run by GAIN, a public-private alliance that aims to contribute, by 2007, to improving the nutritional status of at least 600 million people in up to 40 developing countries – primarily through the fortification of commonly available and consumed local foods.
March 2005: Flour fortification breakthrough in Uzbekistan