The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has committed $10 million into food fortification in Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania, in line with its fight against malnutrition in Africa.
The grant, which was received by TechnoServe, a nonprofit consortium of world class food companies, is aimed at strengthening the ability of food processors to comply with fortification standards, and supporting the fortification enabling environment.
The stakeholders highlighted that one in three children in Nigeria are stunted, while two out of three are chronically malnourished, due to lack of essential micronutrients.
According to them, lack of essential nutrients diminish productivity, reduce IQ points by 10-15 percent, cuts gross domestic product (GDP) by two to three percent.
To tackle this, the initiative will support about 40 food companies in Nigeria to achieve the goal of standardised food fortification
According to the BMGF, the four-year initiative will help food companies in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania to improve competitiveness, while increasing availability of fortified foods.
The Nigerian portion of the initiative for strengthening African processors of fortiied food was launched at the Oriental Hotel in Lagos on Thursday with major stakeholders in attendance.
Speaking at the launch on Thursday about the motive behind the initiative, Shawn Baker, global director of nutrition, Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, said
“To set the context; undernutrition is the cause of 45 percent of underfive mortality. Many children, almost half of children that die, die because of undernutrition, and we also know that good nutrition is essential for children’s physical and cognitive development.
“There are many ways too tackle malnutrition, but one fundamental way to ensure that the food the people eat has essential vitamins and minerals; vitamin A, iodine, folic acid, zinc. And the way to get that is to do large scale food fortification.
“It is really an important way that private sector food producers can make sure that the food thet are producing contains the nutrients that consumers need.
“What we have seen is that Nigeria has really been a pioneer in Africa, having mndatory fortification of cooking oil, sugar and flour. But there’s a disconnect between what the government mandates and what the industry is producing because compliance is not meeting standards.
“This is to help fill that gap to provide technical assistance to companies so they can meet the standards, but also work with the government to make sure that government continues to provide a level playing field so industry has the right incentives to fortify foods to standards”.
The launch was also attended by representatives of the ministers of Agric, health, trade and investment and budget and national planning.
Donors at the event included USAID, DFID, UNICEF, EU, ECOWAS, World Bank and the Aliko Dangote Foundation.