Visit of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador triggers discussions in Kazakh parliament on food fortification
ASTANA, 27 February - UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and many time World Chess Champion Anatoliy Karpov in a recent visit to Kazakhstan triggered vigorous discussions in the Kazakh parliament on the advantages of food fortification.
Anatoliy Karpov, who is the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador on universal salt iodization (USI), took part in a UNICEF-initiated round table meeting in the Kazakh parliament called “Successes and problems of food fortification: flour fortification and salt iodization in Kazakhstan” in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on 20 February.
“As early as 2007 Kazakhstan is expected to be certified as a country that has reached universal salt iodization and this will be an important international event,” Karpov told the round table meeting in the Senate of Kazakh parliament.
A lack of iodine in babies and women of childbearing age causes serious health problems such as mental retardation, disabling goiters, cretinism and dwarfism. The iodization of salt is the simplest and most cost-effective health measure to curb these problems.
Karpov has been actively involved in the universal salt iodization campaign in Kazakhstan which has helped the country to increase the number of households consuming iodized salt threefold from 29 per cent in 1999 to nearly 91 per cent in 2006. “This figure,” Karpov said, “is one of the highest indices in Eastern Europe and the CIS.”
Anatoliy Karpov is very popular in the CIS, as he was winner of the world chess championship 16 times. His speech was warmly welcomed by Kazakh MPs.
“We are pleased to see you in such good shape, neat and young, active and vigorous!” said MP Omirbek Baygeldi, “and we are happy that you are involved in such an important issue for mankind!”
At the round-table meeting on food fortification, in addition to discussing the successes to date of salt iodization in the country, the issue of flour fortification in Kazakhstan was also raised.
“Salt iodization alone does not solve all of the country’s health issues. Over 45 per cent of the population of Kazakhstan suffers from anemia. The fortification of flour with iron and folic acid would help overcome this problem,” UNICEF Representative Alexandre Zouev told the MPs.
“We need to create all the conditions for a decent life for children. Mandatory flour fortification is primarily aimed at protecting children’s and mothers’ right to survival and health through enriching food. This can be achieved through relevant legislation,” Zouev said.
Kazakh law on food safety envisages flour fortification to help prevent iron-deficient anemia and other conditions in women and children. However, there were attempts to recall the provision on mandatory flour fortification with iron and folic acid. Thanks to advocacy efforts by UNICEF and this round-table meeting, it is now expected that the law on food safety will retain the provision on mandatory flour fortification.
“Provided that there is relevant and proper legislation, the same methods used for achieving the USI in Kazakhstan may be applied to flour fortification in the country,” Karpov said during the discussion.
The UNICEF campaign on flour fortification aims to raise awareness among local authorities, millers, bakers, the media and households on the advantages of fortified food and the health problems that can result in the absence of necessary vitamins.
During his visit, Anatoliy Karpov praised Kazakhstan’s successes in achieving the USI in meetings with the ambassadors of the donor countries represented in Kazakhstan and the Chairman of the Kazakh Senate.
About UNICEF. UNICEF is on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
Sultan Khudaibergenov, Communication Officer, UNICEF Kazakhstan