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Kenya says food fortification agenda on course to tackle malnutrition

The Kenyan government says it is partnering with industry and academia to create a robust food fortification infrastructure.

Maize plant
Maize is one of the key staples being prioritised for fortification

Officials said on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 that the aim was to reduce the burden of micro nutrients deficiency affecting children and pregnant women.

Veronica Kirogo, head of the Division of Nutrition and Dietetics in the Ministry of Health, said that fortification of key staples like maize, wheat flour and edible oils had been prioritised to address Kenya’s malnutrition crisis.

“The country is facing a growing burden of malnutrition and childhood stunting whose solution lies in fortifying staple food with vitamins and minerals,’’ Kirogo said at the second National Food Fortification Summit held in Nairobi.

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She said the two-day summit will provide a platform for policymakers, industry executives and researchers to share best practices that could be harnessed to promote fortification of key staples in the country.

Kenya has enacted policies and regulations to facilitate fortification of maize and wheat flour, fats and oils with specific minerals and vitamins as a means to boost nutritional status of pregnant women and children.

According to Kirogo, the establishment of Kenya National Food Fortification Alliance combined with advocacy targeting millers and consumers had ensured that micronutrients were added to main staples.

Kirogo said the government had invested in research, surveillance and consumer education to enhance safety of fortified food, adding that their access reduced child stunting prevalence from 35 to 26 per cent between 2008 and 2014.

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Bashir Issak, head of the Division of Family Health in the Ministry of Health, said that Kenya has prioritised food fortification in a bid to address five micro nutrient deficiencies of major public health concern, namely iron, folic acid, vitamin A, zinc and iodine.

He said that fortification of key staples has proved to be a cheaper and highly effective intervention to reduce micronutrients deficiency among children and pregnant women that has escalated amid COVID-19 pandemic.

Issak said that investments in food fortification could unleash multiple benefits, including boosting cognitive ability of children and reduced incidents of anemia among pregnant women.

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