Congo kicks off roadmap for wheat flour fortification with iron to combat malnutrition
Brazzaville, Congo,14 November 2008 – The roadmap for wheat flour fortification was launched last Wednesday, November 12th, in Pointe Noire, (Congo’s economic capital) by the Government in partnership with the MINOCO (a Congolese Miller) and the support of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).The roadmap aims to reduce the prevalence of iron deficiency anemia among children and pregnant women by at least 30% by 2013, through the fortification of wheat flour with iron and folate. Thus at least 80% of flour provided on the market of the Congo will be fortified with iron by the year 2013.
The Republic of the Congo is hard hit by the "silent hunger," in particular Iron deficiency anemia. The nutritional disorder is a public health concern and it is caused by the lack of iron, critical for the development of hemoglobin and also contributing to intellectual development. Recent health and nutrition surveys conducted in Congo showed an alarming situation. Indeed, iron deficiency anemia affects over 400,000 children under the age of five, more than 100,000 pregnant women and more than 500,000 women of childbearing age.
Currently, Iron deficiency anemia control in Congo focuses primarily on supplementation for pregnant and women after delivery, de-worming, malaria prevention and nutritional education. The implementation of iron fortification of staple food like wheat flour will make the control more effective. The effectiveness of this intervention at a very low cost has already been demonstrated in many countries across the globe.
"The fortification of wheat flour is an effective way to fight against malnutrition. The Ministry of Health, Social Affairs and Family is firmly committed to this process and support the social marketing aspects and nutritional surveillance ", said Mrs. Emilienne Raoul, Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Family.
The government believes that the conditions to launch flour fortification in Congo are present: the wide consumption of wheat flour based products, (bread, cakes, etc..) by the large majority of the population, the control of wheat flour fortification technology and easy technology transfer, as well as the commitment of MINOCO, who produces 60% of flour consumed in Congo, and the majority of importers and the willingness of consumers to adopt 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 Mr. Emile Mabondzo, Minister of Industrial Development and Promotion of Private Sector.
"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 ", said Dr Koen Vanormelingen, UNICEF Representative in the Congo.
The meeting of Pointe Noire has created a framework for coordination with all actors involved in the production, importation and marketing of iron fortified wheat flour for the implementation of the roadmap. To this end, the Government is committed to develop the legal framework regulating manufacturing, importation and marketing of iron fortified wheat flour on Congolese territory. This has naturally motivated the commitment of MINOCO. "We can begin the process of fortification of wheat flour right now." concluded Mr. Christophe Bardy, Director General of MINOCO.