Project Healthy Children works with governments in developing countries to fortify staple foods such as flour, sugar, rice and oil. The process adds micronutrients such as folic acid, iodine, iron, vitamin A and zinc in order to tackle micronutrient deficiency.
How it works
- PHC undertakes a “country assessment” before beginning operations, conducting and consulting national surveys on health and nutrition, the political environment, food imports / exports and consumption patterns.
- From this assessment it identifies the best staple foods for fortification in order to reach the most people in the most effective manner possible.
- It provides technical assistance to governments in designing and implementing fortification programs, and in drafting national fortification standards.
- It also provides technical assistance to manufacturers to ensure that their equipment and methods meet the standards.
- It further assists in the training of inspectors and the creation of monitoring systems to ensure that effective fortification is taking place.
Why we recommend it
Across the world micronutrient deficiency is the leading cause of intellectual disability, preventable blindness and death during childbirth. It is also a serious cause of severe birth defects, compromised immune systems and a host of other conditions.
PHC spends between $300,000 and $650,000 to establish a program in a country, with a coverage level of around two-thirds of the population. Even for relatively small populations, this comes to between $0.05 and $0.10 per person.
Once programs are set up they continue to do good year after year. The cost of the fortification itself is borne by manufacturers, and even when passed on to consumers it is at a negligible level.
Although it is too early for any concrete evaluations of the success of its programs, early signs are positive. Thanks to PHC a number of countries now have fully realised fortification programs and are entirely self-sufficient in managing and maintaining them.
Case study: Fortification in Rwanda
- Health surveys in 2005 to 2008 showed severe levels of micronutrient deficiency especially among young children, leading to high levels of anaemia (suffered by nearly 50% of children under 5) as well as goiter and vitamin A deficiency.
- In 2008 PHC worked with the Rwandan Ministry of Health and Bureau of Standards to collect data on areas such as food production, cross-border trade and industry structures.
- In 2010 PHC helped set up a National Fortification Alliance, including representatives from Government, industry and civil society, to ensure co-operation between all interested parties.
- Also in 2010 PHC helped the Government draft a Ministerial Decree on Food Fortification, establishing a framework for mandatory fortification of wheat and maize flour, cooking oil, sugar and salt.
- PHC then drafted fortification standards along with international and regional experts.
- At the same time PHC has been working closely with local food producers and conducting industry assessments which outline the changes needed for fortification to take place.
Further information and donations
For further information, visit PHC’s website, our full report into their effectiveness. We also have more in depth information about micronutrients and deficiency. We've also recently written an extensive an extensive update on PHC's effectiveness.