ISLAMABAD: The process of adding nutrients to various food groups in order to overcome the prevalence of nutritional deficiencies in our population, has gained a great deal of importance amongst the Government and different Development Agencies.
It is announced that, soon a survey will be conducted in the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad, to assess the contribution of fortified foods to the health and growth of women of reproductive age and children. This survey will be carried out by The Ministry of Planning Development and Reform (MoPDR) Pakistan, supported by Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), along with Oxford Policy Management, under the dissemination of Fortification Assessment Coverage Toolkit (FACT).
The micronutrients that are added to fortify food are actually chemical elements, that are required for the normal growth and development of living organisms.
According to the health experts, nutrients like ‘Iodine’ is added to salt whereas, ‘Vitamins A and D’ to cooking oil and flour to help meet deficiencies in the population.
MoPDR Chief Nutrition and SUN Focal Person, Mr. Muhammad Aslam Shaheen stated that, this particular survey will help in documenting the accomplishment of the ongoing process of food fortification programs in Pakistan. It will also help in identifying potential barriers, so that quality assurance can be well assessed. The FACT survey will also provide representative data and its mass effect at national and provincial levels.
MoNHSRC Nutrition Director Dr. Baseer Achakzai highlighted that the addition of elements iodine and vitamin A in food items have a strong effect on young children and women of reproductive age in Balochistan, Punjab, and Sindh.
He emphasized that all products should be fortified in compliance with the fortification standard. Currently, most of the products are fortified below standards.
GAIN Country Director Dr. Qaiser Pasha added that, GAIN has already performed FACT surveys in 15 countries before introducing this idea in Pakistan. He displayed hope with regards to the outcome of the survey, and that the information will be used strategically by the Government and partners to further improve the system and initiate new programs.
A representative of Government of Sindh, Mr. Sohail stated that FACT survey has provided them with baseline information and tools, that can greatly be utilized at field level.
While presenting the key results of FACT Survey, Valerie Friesen, Technical Specialist GAIN shared that, the process of salt fortification following proper guidelines, could fulfill iodine intake requirements amongst young children and women.
It was revealed that, at least 25 percent of households in Punjab and 16 percent in Balochistan are devoid of iodized salt.
Moreover, she added that potential impact of fortified wheat flour is limited, as the contribution of ‘flour mill aata’ is way less than the total requirement, due to which other sources of flour like, ‘chakki flour’ will have to be explored.
Mr. Abdul Rehman, an USAID official, stated that their team has contributed in performing the survey and will continue supporting such programs. Ms. Cecilia Garzon, a UNICEF representative further added that, survey based evidences will help in enhancing the quality of future programs.