Fortifying flour offers a safe economical way to improve health in Kosovo
Prishtinë/Priština, 22 June 2011 – In support of improvement of maternal and child health, the UNICEF Office in Kosovo, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development (MAFRD) and the Ministry of Health (MoH), will hold a meeting-workshop (22 June 2011) to discuss the prevention and reduction of micronutrient deficiencies in Kosovo.
The event aims to highlight the current nutritional status of Kosovo’s population and discuss ways that it can be improved through systematic, targeted interventions. The plan to nutritionally fortify flour with iron and folic acid will be discussed, in order to create a plan of action outlining the specific activities to be undertaken during the next two years. Iron and folic acid deficiencies are among the most common forms of nutritional deficiencies in the world, and present a serious health risk factor. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 40% of the world’s population is anaemic. Symptoms of iron and folate anaemia include general weakness, fatigue, impaired immune functions, decreased productivity, weight-loss and headaches. For pregnant women, an insufficient intake of folic acid increases the likelihood of giving birth prematurely and contributes to low birth weight and other birth defects. In children, these deficiencies can slow growth rate and lead to stunting.
Poor nutrition is an underlying cause of inadequate health in Kosovo. According to the UNICEF-supported Survey on Nutritional Status (2010) of pregnant women and school children, 15.7% of school children tested positive for mild anaemia. Among pregnant women, anaemia was present in 23% of those surveyed, suggesting a significant public health problem. The survey also measured the height of each child involved in the study, finding that 15.5% of Kosovo’s children are stunted, with 4.7% severely stunted.
“Malnutrition is both a consequence and cause of poverty,” says UNICEF Head of Office Johannes Wedenig. “It is important to address anaemia and folic acid deficiency, in order to protect children from largely irreversible outcomes, such as stunting and poor cognitive development. This can be achieved through a very cost-effective measure known as flour fortification”.
Fortifying flour with iron and folic acid is a simple, cost-effective and high-impact measure that will substantively contribute to the improvement of the maternal and child nutritional status in Kosovo. Many nutrients and minerals contained in flour are lost during the refinement process. As flour is consumed throughout widely, fortifying flour with minerals and vitamins replaces these nutrients in a form the body can absorb. Estimated at approximately 10.4 million Euros per year, the economic loss due to iron and folic acid deficiency in Kosovo is significant. Annual fortification of flour, at an estimated less than 0.50 million Euro, presents a cost benefit of over 9million Euro.
UNICEF aims to help combat micro-nutrient deficiencies in Kosovo by providing technical assistance to institutions focused on nutrition, assisting in promulgation of Law for Flour fortification, implementation of standards and policies for flour fortification, training of millers and relevant stakeholders in quality assurance and health promotion. UNICEF will also provide 50 percent of the premixes of iron and folic acid for the first year of the programme.
Organised by the working group for micronutrient deficiencies, in partnership with UNICEF, the meeting-workshop will be held on 22 June in Villa Germia, starting at 10am. Participants will include the Minister of Health and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development, as well as officials from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development. Members of the Parliamentarian Committee on Health, Labour and Social Welfare and the Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Spatial Planning, and representatives of the Flour Miller Association, Konsumatori NGO and the media will also be in attendance.
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