|© UNICEF Uzbekistan/2005/Burnett|
|UNICEF and World Bank staff distribute fortified bread at an event publicizing the flour fortification project in Uzbekistan.|
By Anthony Burnett and Rachel Bonham Carter
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, 11 August 2005 – With international support, the government of Uzbekistan has launched a $2.8 million flour fortification project, in order to reduce serious nutritional deficiencies among women and children over the next three years.
Studies suggest that over 60 per cent of children under three years old and women of childbearing age suffer from iron deficiency, according to the UNICEF office in Uzbekistan.
“Iron-deficiency anemia is a major cause of death amongst children at birth,” said UNICEF Deputy Regional Director Shahnaz Kianian-Firouzgar on a visit to 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.”
|© UNICEF Uzbekistan/2005/Burnett|
|Members of Uzbekistan’s Children’s Parliament helped inform shopkeepers about the importance of fortified bread.|
When nutritional deficiencies are widespread, one of the most efficient and lowest-cost methods of improving the health of a nation’s population is through the fortification of food products. For flour products, this means adding iron, folic acid (one of the few nutrients known to prevent neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida) and other necessary vitamins.
Awareness-raising by the Children’s Parliament
Uzbekistan is one of the first countries to benefit from a flour fortification programme run by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), an alliance of public and private sector organisations whose goal is to improve the nutritional status of at least 600 million people in 40 developing countries, primarily through the fortification of commonly available and consumed local foods.
The project in Uzbekistan is supported by GAIN, the World Bank, the Uzbekistan Ministry of Health and UNICEF. It aims to equip 48 flour mills owned by Uzdonmahsulot (the former state bread and grain company) and additional privately-owned mills for producing fortified flour. This will help improve the diet of up to 90 per cent of that segment of the population considered to be most at risk of nutritional deficiencies.
An event at the Galla-Alteg flour mill in Tashkent on 29 July 2005 served to publicize the project and to emphasize the importance of addressing nutritional deficiencies. The event was preceded by an intensive week-long awareness-raising campaign for bread retailers and for the general public.
Members of the Children’s Parliament of Uzbekistan supported the campaign, visiting stores where bread is sold, informing shopkeepers of the importance of fortified flour, distributing leaflets, posters and stickers, talking to members of the public and writing articles for the press.
At the event, the World Bank’s Country Manager for Uzbekistan, Martin Raiser, said the project had an important place in the context of a $40 million health initiative in the country. He emphasized the importance of the participation of all flour producers in Uzbekistan and praised the “spirit of collaboration” among all stakeholders.