Georgia launches a project to tackle malnutrition
The Global Alliance for Nutrition (GAIN) has awarded a three-year grant worth US$1.2 million to GeorgiaTBILISI. February 12, 2007. Georgia celebrated the launch of a national project to add vitamins and minerals to wheat flour in a high-level signing ceremony in Parliament today. The Global Alliance for Nutrition (GAIN) has awarded a three-year grant worth US$1.2 million to Georgia to establish a national project to fortify wheat flour with iron and folic acid. The project is expected to benefit 2.3 million people in Georgia, particularly over one million women and children who are currently estimated to suffer from iron-deficiency anemia and other health consequences of poor nutrition.
With their signatures, representatives from A Call To Serve (ACTS) Georgia, the National Fortification Alliance and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), marked the official start of the project and used the opportunity to express strong commitment and support to this new initiative.
“We are very proud to officially launch the new flour fortification project” said GAIN Executive Director, Marc Van Ameringen. “Flour fortification in this country has great potential to improve nutrition in Georgia. GAIN’s money will act as a catalyst. We will help start the fortification process, but it is the commitment of each of the members of the National Fortification Alliance that will mean that Georgia achieves a sustainable project that will benefit generations to come.”
“The National Fortification Alliance of Georgia is strongly committed to this project” said Mr. George Gegelashvili, Deputy Head of the Committee for Health and Social Affairs, Parliament of Georgia and Chairperson of the National Fortification Alliance. “This is a time of rebuilding in Georgia, and we know that one of the most important things we can do is to improve the health and productivity of our population, especially our young people. Fortification has been shown to bring significant health and financial benefits in countries throughout the world, and we are keen for Georgia to share these same advantages.”
The goal of the project is to reduce iron deficiency and anemia among target groups, which are women of reproductive age and children aged from 3 to 15 years, by 20% and to reduce the occurrence of Neural Tube Defects among newborns throughout the country. It is estimated that by the third year of the project, around 50% of people in the target groups, that is over 1 million people, will be eating, and benefiting from, the fortified flour.
The most recent figures published in UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children 2007”, show that in 2000 Georgia’s adjusted maternal mortality rate stood at 32 per 100,000 live births; nearly 3 times higher than the rate for industrialized countries. The probability of a child dying before the age of 5 years is 45 per 1000 live births, which is almost eight times higher than the rate for industrialized countries (data refer to the year 2005).
“This is the most important initiative for Georgia and we are proud that since 2005 UNICEF has been supporting the Parliamentary Committee and the National Alliance for Improved Nutrition to develop a national programme and the country proposal on iron/folate fortification of wheat flour, - says Giovanna Barberis, UNICEF Representative in Georgia, - “We are grateful to GAIN and to the Parliamentary Committee on Health and Social Issues for their initiative to address iron deficiency problems in Georgia. Thanks to this programme our collective efforts now receive new dimension. UNICEF will continue to provide relevant technical assistance to the Government and the National Alliance for succesful implementation of the initiative.”
“We are very grateful to GAIN because this project is very important for the people and the future of our country” said the President of ACTS Georgia, Mr. Giorgi Tsilosani. “We will put all our efforts to ensure that 50% of the total flour market will be fortified by the end of the project time frame. The entire population but especially the vulnerable groups will benefit from the consumption of fortified flour.”
It is expected that over the next three years, 18 large and mid-sized mills throughout the country will be licensed and trained in flour fortification. Those 18 mills represent more than half of the Georgian flour market. Vitamins and minerals to add to around 480,000MT of flour, and the equipment to achieve this, will be bought. Fortification levels will be established and quality assurance and control systems will be introduced at mill and retail levels. At the same time, strong communication and awareness campaigns will be undertaken to explain the benefits of fortified flour. By the end of the project, a policy framework for universal flour fortification and tax-exemption for pre-mix imports will be in place.
Regina Moench-Pfanner, PhD
Mr. George Gegelashvili Deputy Head, Committee of Health & Social Affairs,