- | June 2020 |
More than ever, food fortification with iron, folic acid, zinc, and other essential nutrients is a life-saving intervention vital to reducing the risk of malnutrition—before, during, and after pandemics.
To prevent a rise in malnutrition as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries need to maintain food systems and support large-scale interventions like the fortification of staple foods. The frontline of every country’s health system are the immune systems of its people.
- | June 2020 |
Smarter Futures partners Nutrition International and the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (IF) have collaborated to create two important Knowledge Briefs:
In countries where resources are low, children born with neural tube defects (NTDs) such as spina bifida – and the associated hydrocephalus – are at increased risk of premature death due to stigma and non-treatment. Adequate strategies to reduce the incidence of NTDs, such as folic acid supplementation and mandatory food fortification, are essential.
Representative organizations such as IF and its members are in a unique position to raise awareness of NTDs, and to draw attention to the reality of what it means to live with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus. Organizations at national or regional level also have a unique understanding of the cultural environment, including the cultural barriers related to diet and religious beliefs that often prevent compliance.
- | May 2020 |
Colleagues of our Smarter Futures partners GAIN, Nutrition International and the Food Fortification Initiative (FFI) have written a blog article, Fortification of staple foods is a critical weapon in the fight against COVID-19. They call on ASEAN governments to take action so staple food and food products fortified with essential micronutrients remain available and accessible during COVID-19.
In Africa too, countries are hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, e.g. South Africa (7,220 cases and 138 deaths), Egypt (6,813 cases and 436 deaths), Algeria (4,648 cases and 465 deaths), Nigeria (2,802 cases and 93 deaths), and Cameroon (2,104 cases and 64 deaths) at the day of writing (May 5, 2020).
Similar to the ASEAN region, a large number of the African population faces the triple burden of malnutrition: undernutrition (stunting and wasting), micronutrient deficiencies, and overweight and obesity.
In Africa, 26 countries currently have mandates to fortify wheat flour. Nine of those countries also require fortification of maize flour. Six countries in this region fortify more than half of their industrially milled wheat flour even though it is not mandatory.
- | April 2020 |
Smarter Futures partner the Food Fortification Initiative (FFI) has published its 2019 Annual Report, which offers a wealth of information. The general sections address the rationale for fortification, its anticipated effect on the health of women and children, and the different stages of planning and implementing a national fortification programme. While FFI works worldwide, its activities in Africa are carried out under the Smarter Futures umbrella.
In 2019, FFI worked in 21 countries across four regions: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and South Asia. Using maps, they show their actions and potential reach, including their Smarter Futures work done in Africa. Members of our partner the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (IF), were involved in the grassroots Pull Strategy in Uganda and Malawi, to advocate for and monitor food fortification. This strategy is funded by Smarter Futures partner GAIN.
FFI’s 2019 Annual Report also provides detailed information on global progress in fortifying grains worldwide, the way the global estimates are calculated, as well as extensive maps for each of the three grains, wheat, maize and rice. The full report can be found on FFI website.
- | October 2019 |
On 25 October 2019, Smarter Futures’ partner the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (IF) celebrated World Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Day with its members, partners, and the general public. For IF, this was an extra special event, as the day coincided with its 40th anniversary. Founded by people with spina bifida and hydrocephalus (SBH) and their families in 1979, it has grown over the years from a voluntary association into a professional disabled people’s organisation (DPO) with global coverage, democratic structure and transparent and accountable processes.
Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus associations and individuals around the world organised events and used social media to help raise awareness and increase understanding about spina bifida and hydrocephalus and to promote the rights of people living with these conditions.
- | February 2019 |
On February 26-27, the Smarter Futures Steering Committee held their face-to-face meeting in Hamburg, Germany, hosted by partner Mühlenchemie. The second day of the meeting took place at their FlourWorld Museum Wittenburg. Participants discussed the current status of fortification programming in each country in Africa led by FFI Deputy Director Laura Rowe, FFI Director Scott Montgomery presented on scaling up rice fortification in West Africa, Claudio Benvegnu from Nouryon walked through a brief history of AkzoNobel, the new company Nouryon, and their NaFeEDTA product, which was followed by a discussion on the need for global guidelines for quality NaFeEDTA.
IF Secretary Lieven Bauwens led a discussion on the extremely high rates of neural tube defects (NTDs) Ethiopia is experiencing. Current fortification efforts, which provide folic acid (along with other nutrients) through wheat flour, have only been voluntary to date with a standard approved by the government in 2018. The group discussed the current recommendation by Dr. Godfrey Oakley to add folic acid to Ethiopia’s iodized salt. A meeting will be held in April with the government in Addis to explore this and other suggestions.
- | January 2019 |
2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Smarter Futures partnership in which Nouryon collaborates with the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, Helen Keller International, and the Food Fortification Initiative to improve and increase availability of fortified wheat, maize flour and rice that meets quality and nutrition standards in Africa.
The aim of the partnership is to improve the health of women in childbearing age, adolescents (especially girls) and younger children in Africa who suffer greatly from iron and folate deficiency. The most efficient way of preventing and treating iron deficiency anemia is through fortification of food products with vitamins and minerals that can be readily absorbed by the body. Folates are essential to prevent birth defects. Nouryon can provide one of these vital ingredients, an iron compound, as ingredient to enrich wheat and maize flour. Together with our partners we provide technical support & training to facilitate prevention measures, thereby improving the quality of life for those facing these challenging circumstances.
Did you know?
Nouryon was the first industry and founding partner to Smarter Futures. We are incredibly proud of our long-lasting partnership and are pleased to see that we have successfully expanded Smarter Futures to connect with even more partners.
We strongly believe in the power of working together as partners to truly make a difference in Africa.
2019 signing ceremony with representatives from Nouryon and the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (IF) to reconfirm their partnership. From left to right: Lieven Bauwens (IF), Alberto Allegro (Nouryon), Anna Verster (IF) and Juliana Ruparelia (Nouryon)
- | November 2018 |
In 2017, a Technical Consultation was spearheaded by the Micronutrient Forum, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to advance the neural tube defects (NTDs) prevention in low- and middle-income countries through improved folate status in women of reproductive age. A group of international experts from a wide range of disciplines produced a roadmap for global action on reducing the risk of NTDs world-wide. The findings of the Technical Consultation were published in July 2017. Now this year, Nutrition International has produced a Knowledge Brief with a summary of the findings and the roadmap for action. Also, clear take away messages are outlined for decision makers, researchers and the public.
Smarter Futures partners the Food Fortification Initiative (FFI) and the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (IF) were both involved in the Consultation Review Process and FFI Director Scott Montgomery, FFI Communications Coordinator Sarah Zimmerman and IF Secretary General Lieven Bauwens were acknowledged for the inputs and information they provided. In addition, Scott Montgomery, Lieven Bauwens and FFI Africa Network Coordinator Ronald Afrida contributed to producing the Knowledge Brief.
- | October 2018 |
From October 8-10, 2018, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Ministry of Health in South Africa, with support from UNICEF and Smarter Futures, hosted the Regional Consultative and Capacity Building Workshop on Strengthening Food Fortification Programmes: Monitoring and Surveillance Systems in Johannesburg. This workshop provided SADC Member States with an opportunity to consult and share lessons on the application of the previously learned quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) approaches with regard to food fortification, within the SADC context.
During the workshop good practices were shared related to food fortification regulatory monitoring, and the SADC secretariat introduced its efforts to develop regional food fortification minimum standards. Participants also received information about monitoring and surveillance tools such as FortifyMIS and FORTIMAS. Further objectives, additional information, the agenda and a full report can be found on the website of the Food Fortification Initiative.
- | August 2018 |
On behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO), FFI’s Training and Technical Support Coordinator Quentin Johnson presented a cost-benefit analysis for flour fortification in Sudan. A modelling tool was used, which was especially designed to make the economic case for wheat flour fortification.
WHO Representative Dr. Naeema Al Gasseer stated that the study result has demonstrated that investing $1 in wheat flour fortification has the potential to return $15 to the economy of Sudan. She further explained that this is due to improved cognitive ability in children and future productivity and improved working performance in the current adult population. The addition of folic acid to flour will help to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in newborns.
Quentin Johnson said “This is the first time that I have seen three ministers of the government of the country publicly support the implementation of flour fortification in the same meeting“.
- | June 2018 |
A new study looks at the readiness of selected national laboratories to test fortified foods and the accuracy of their results. Dr. Philip Randall, a senior technical expert in food quality and safety, did take on this endeavor in 2016-2017.
The capacity of laboratories to measure fortified foods was assessed by how many signed in to participate in the study compared to how many managed to deliver the results in time. The samples used in this study included key staple foods such as wheat and maize flours, sugar, edible oil and table salt. The micronutrients measured were vitamin A in oil, iodine in salt, vitamin A in sugar and iron with vitamin A in wheat and maize flours.
The study has been supported by Global Alliance of Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and funded by The Government of The Netherlands. This BioAnalyt article offers a quick look into key learnings and recommendations of the study. If you want to more information about this study you are welcome to contact the lead investigator Dr. Philip Randall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- | February 2018 |
On February 15th, the European Commission, International Cooperation and Development, hosted a lunchtime conference ”Food Fortification: Scalable approaches to prevent micronutrient deficiencies in populations’‘ at its External Cooperation InfoPoint in Brussels.
Presentations were made by Anna Verster, Senior adviser on food fortification and Smarter Futures project coordinator, Saul Morris from GAIN and Paulus Verschuren from HarvestPlus. They discussed the key factors and global experiences in effective and sustainable implementation of biofortification, large scale flour/rice fortification, and fortified complementary foods, as public health interventions.
Food fortification aims to contribute to reduction of the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies. Reducing folic acid deficiency through large scale food fortification with this essential vitamin can significantly contribute to reducing the prevalence of neural tube defects worldwide. Anna Verster, on behalf on Smarter Futures, highlighted the work done by IF in promoting folic acid fortification to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects. Her presentation is available here.
- | January 2018 |
31st December 2017 marked the end of the current Smarter Futures project. We have submitted a request for funding for the coming 4 years to continue working with you. As many of you have noticed, we are currently undergoing an evaluation to see what are the Smarter Futures strengths and weaknesses and where we should focus our efforts in the coming years.
The Smarter Futures team herewith would like to express its heartfelt gratitude to all of you, partners, country participants, industry participants who agreed to be part of the evaluation process. Many of you have been interviewed, have participated in the online survey and have in other ways contributed to the process. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! We will keep you posted and hope to soon share with you our 2018 work plan.
HAPPY FORTIFIED 2018!
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