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June 20, 2019

Sindh component of Food Fortification Program launched


June 20, 2019

Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho said Wednesday the government was going to get food fortification law passed by the provincial assembly to ensure that flour mills and oil and ghee manufacturers fortified their products with micronutrients to tackle vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the diets of the people of Sindh, especially women and children.

“Convincing the manufacturers of flour and ghee is the last bridge that we have to cover as they are a bit reluctant to add micronutrients to their products. We have to convince them that it is in the interest of the people if they add micronutrients to their products. We are going to bring legislation in this regard too,” she said while speaking at a joint press conference after the launch of the Sindh component of a Food Fortification Program at a local hotel.

Funded by the British government through UKaid, the Food Fortification Program has been launched by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Department (DFID) and in Sindh to combat malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies, including iron, zinc, vitamins and minerals, in the diets of people.

Launched with 48 million pounds sterling, the DFID would provide equipment to 153 flour mills and 44 oil and ghee mills by the end of the program in January 2021 to sell flour and oil/ghee fortified with micronutrients including iron, zinc, folic acid and other necessary vitamins and minerals.

The Sindh health minister remarked that fortified flour and edible oil and ghee would prove to be a cost-effective measure for providing healthy food and diet to the people, saying she had been informed that only five rupees would be charged extra for a 20-kilogram of bag of fortified flour.

Urging the media to educate and encourage the masses to consume fortified flour and ghee from now onwards, she urged the manufacturers to cooperate with the authorities in making the food fortification program a success. She added that this was an immensely important program in tackling the issue of malnutrition, especially among children and women in the province.

Announcing the launch of the program in the province, DFID Head of Office Joanna Reid said that food fortification is all about addressing the “hidden hunger”. She said malnutrition is not just lack of food; instead, it happens when food does not have necessary vitamins and minerals the people require to grow up strong, both physically and mentally.

Terming malnutrition a major challenge to the economic growth of Pakistan, she maintained that food fortification is an easy solution to tackle malnutrition as in this way there is no need to change eating behaviours of the people and they continue to eat what they have been eating for centuries, but that food is fortified with minerals and vitamins that are necessary for their physical and mental growth.

“When children have this hidden hunger, they don’t grow up strong and become vulnerable to disease. This affects their brain and mental growth and that is an absolute tragedy. We know that this is not good for Pakistan as the country’s economy needs to grow,” Joanna Reid said and hoped that this program would yield positive results for Sindh as well as the entire Pakistan.

Earlier, at the launching ceremony of the FFP Program in Sindh, experts, including the FFP Team Leader in Pakistan Stuart King, Vice President Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry Muslim Muhammedi, and Secretary Food Sindh Haroon Ahmed Khan, termed it a great achievement in dealing with the issue of malnutrition, especially among women and children in the province.

Health, nutrition experts as well as legislators and government officials also spoke and pledged their support to the authorities in making the program a success.

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