World Food Day Highlights Importance of Fortified and Nutritious Foods during COVID-19 Crisis
The Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods program is helping African companies expand the availability of fortified foods to vulnerable populations
(Lagos, Nigeria) — As people around the globe mark World Food Day, the Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF) program is highlighting the importance of micronutrient fortification, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Hidden hunger” caused by micronutrient deficiency has been tied to a number of development and health issues, affecting millions of people across Africa. However, the COVID-19 crisis has created a new sense of urgency, as nutrient deficiency has been identified as a potential risk factor responsible for severe symptoms from the disease.
A recent study in the International Journal of Infectious Disease, for example, concluded that “…[M]any patients were deficient in vitamin D and selenium. Additionally, all severely ill patients with COVID-19 where deficient in more than one nutrient. Therefore, we suggest a possibility that nutritional deficiencies may favor the onset of COVID-19 and increase the severity of the disease.”
The SAPFF program—a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and international nonprofits TechnoServe and Partners in Food Solutions has worked with 207 food processors in Nigeria, Kenya, and Tanzania, providing customized technical assistance, training and generated comprehensive information to inform fortification program implementation to increase consumer access to staple foods that are fortified with micronutrients.
Since launching in 2017, SAPFF interventions have catalyzed significant changes within targeted industries, which has resulted in an observable increase in fortification compliance. In Nigeria, the share of locally processed sugar that is adequately fortified has risen from 32% to 84%. In Kenya, the share of locally processed maize flour that is adequately fortified grew from 28% to 44%. And in Tanzania, the share of edible oil that is adequately fortified grew from 44% to 91%.
“World Food Day is an opportunity to think about what we consume and how it reaches our table. This year, amid the pandemic, that’s more important than ever,” said Rizwan Yusufali, Regional Program Director for SAPFF. “Eating fortified foods is an important, cost-effective way to improve our own health and the health of our families. I am so excited to see the work of African companies to expand the availability of these products throughout the continent.”
TechnoServe is a leader in harnessing the power of the private sector to help people lift themselves out of poverty. A non-profit organization operating in 29 countries, we work with hard-working men and women in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses, and industries. By linking people to information, capital, and markets, we have helped millions to create lasting prosperity for their families and communities.
Founded over 50 years ago, TechnoServe has been named the #1 nonprofit for fighting poverty by the ImpactMatters charity ratings agency.
About Partners in Food Solutions
Partners in Food Solutions, a consortium of leading global food companies – General Mills, Cargill, DSM, Bühler, The Hershey Company, Ardent Mills and The J.M. Smucker Company – is working to strengthen food security, improve nutrition and increase economic development across Africa by expanding and increasing the competitiveness of the food processing sector. We link corporate volunteers from our world-class corporate partners who are experts in their field, to share their expertise and experience with promising entrepreneurs in twelve African countries.