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Fortified flour helps fight anaemia in Tajikistan

© UNICEF Tajikistan/2007/ Fletcher
Mill technical manager Isakov Urunboy and his flour-testing mobile laboratory.

By Meryn Fletcher

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan, 8 August, 2007 – Isakov Urunboy is the technical manager of the Just Combe Invest flour mill in Dushanbe. On a table in his spotless office lies a mobile laboratory, the contents of which are expected to play a significant role in tackling a major health problem in Tajikistan – anaemia.

The nutrients in bread can significantly contribute to solving the problem of anaemia caused by iron deficiency in Tajikistan, a country where bread is eaten at every meal. Fortified flour is a cost-effective and sustainable way of tackling undernutrition.

“Once we knew the level of anaemia problems across the country, we distributed iron pills through the Ministry of Health,” said UNICEF’s Tajikistan Nutrition Officer, Murtribjon Bakhrudinov. “This was very costly and could not go on indefinitely.”

Awareness is not enough

Around two billion people worldwide suffer from anaemia. It is a major cause of maternal deaths and of cognitive deficits in young children and it can permanently affect later motor development and school performance.

© UNICEF Tajikistan/2007/ Fletcher
Mill laboratory chief Nazrishoev Rahmatsho adds chemicals to the flour to test the level of added nutrients.

Mr. Urunboy specially designed his mobile lab in order to test the levels of nutrients in the flour at his mill, which already fortifies its flour. Now, Mr. Urunboy and UNICEF are advocating for a national flour fortification law. It is their hope that soon this lab will be used the help people over the country.

“The citizens of Dushanbe are beginning to ask for fortified flour,” said Mr. Urunboy. “However, awareness of our flour fortification campaign among the public is not enough. We need the government to act and pass legislation to make it compulsory.”

A relatively new problem

In Tajikistan, the issue of non-fortified flour is relatively new. During the Soviet era, all mills were state-controlled and nutrients were added automatically. Now, smaller, privately-run mills have emerged to satisfy the demands of this bread-hungry country but their flour is not fortified. 

One way that UNICEF Tajikistan has been advocating for countrywide flour fortification is by supporting the work of technicians like Mr. Urunboy. They are supporting his mobile lab and helping him to do research, so that testing can take place more widely.

Meanwhile, Mr. Urunboy is is hoping that the politicians will listen and act on flour fortification. He is waiting for requests to make copies of his grey box, so that his mobile flour-testing laboratory can be used to help children throughout Tajikistan.   



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