|© UNICEF Congo/2007/Ouenabio|
|A young vendor sells iron-fortified flour at the local market in Plateaux de 15 ans, a suburb zone of Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.|
POINTE NOIRE, Republic of Congo, 22 December 2008 – Congo has launched a 'roadmap' to reduce the prevalence of iron-deficiency anaemia among children and pregnant women by least 30 per cent by 2013. The goal is to be achieved through the fortification of wheat flour with iron and folate.
The roadmap was launched last month in Pointe Noire, Congo's economic capital, by the government in partnership with MINOCO, a Congolese miller, and with the support of UNICEF. When fully realized, the initiative will guarantee that 80 per cent of the flour provided on the market in Congo is fortified.
Fortification of staple foods
Congo is being hard hit by 'silent hunger' or lack of micronutrients – particularly iron-deficiency anaemia, a nutritional disorder and public health concern. Health and nutrition surveys conducted in Congo show an alarming situation: Hundreds of thousands of children under the age of five, pregnant women and women of childbearing age are unprotected from iron-deficiency anaemia.
|© UNICEF Congo/2007/Pevre|
|Three girls in northern Congo have lunch provided by their school as part of the 'child-friendly schools' approach to meeting a wide range of children's needs.|
Currently, iron-deficiency control in Congo focuses primarily on nutritional supplements for pregnant women and mothers who have just delivered a child; the supplements are provided in conjunction with de-worming, malaria prevention and nutrition education efforts.
The fortification of staple foods such as wheat flour should prove more effective. Indeed, the success of this low-cost intervention has already been demonstrated in many countries across the globe.
"The fortification of wheat flour is an effective way to fight against malnutrition," said the Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Family, Emilienne Raoul. The Ministry, he added, "is firmly committed to this process."
'Waiting for the green light'
Government officials say that the conditions to launch flour fortification in Congo are ideal. Wheat flour-based products, such as bread and cakes, are consumed by a large majority of the population. And flour fortification technology is easily transferred; importers and MINOCO, which produces 60 per cent of flour consumed in Congo, are committed to adopting the new product.
"We will grant tax incentives and exemptions to MINOCO for the importation of the required equipment in order to quickly move forward with the process of flour fortification," promised the Minister of Industrial Development and Promotion of the Private Sector, Emile Mabondzo.
"The Congo is the first country in Central Africa to engage in the fortification of wheat flour. It is a beacon for the development of the sub-region," noted UNICEF Representative in Congo Dr. Koen Vanormelingen.
With the government committed to regulating the manufacture, importation and marketing of iron-fortified wheat flour on Congolese territory, all other participants are now just waiting for the green light. "We can begin the process of fortification of wheat flour right now," concluded the Director General of MINOCO, Christophe Bardy.