Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), Dr. Rashid Aman, has underscored the importance of food fortification, noting that it has proven, safe and cost-effective strategy for the prevention and control of micronutrient deficiencies.
Dr. Rashid noted that although Kenya has been a success story in the progression towards food fortification, there is need to support successful implementation of food fortification strategies aimed at addressing micronutrient deficiencies in the Country.
Speaking during the Kenya National Food Fortification (KNFFA) Summit 2021 in Nairobi, the CAS said fortification of pre-packaged maize flour, wheat flour, vegetable oils and fats that are now mandatory through Legal Notice No. 62 of June 2012 as development.
During the summit the government launched the Food Fortification Database and the Public Health Officers training guidelines.
KNFFA draws its membership from the relevant Ministries and statutory bodies, food industries, partner organizations, academic and research institutions.
The theme for this year’s summit ‘Creating an enabling environment for food fortification in Kenya’.
The CAS explained that in order to enhance coordination of the food fortification activities, the Ministry of Health established the Kenya National Food Fortification Alliance (KNFFA) in 2005.
“As we take stock of the progress made in food fortification, let us remember that staple food fortification is widely recognized as a “best buy” development and public health intervention with significant economic returns through averted diseases, enhanced productivity and improved incomes,” he said.
Rashid emphasized the need to focus on favourable policy, legislation, regulatory and programme environment.
He noted that the country has made some progress towards achieving the global nutrition targets, specifically by reducing the proportion of stunted children from 35 per cent in 2008/9 to 26 per cent in 2014, reducing childhood wasting from seven to four per cent and increasing the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first Six months of life from 32 to 61 per cent over the same period.
However, despite these milestones, the CAS said there exist regional disparities with some counties reporting high levels of malnutrition.
“Micronutrient deficiencies remain a public health concern, especially for Kenya’s women and children and the most common deficiencies among the Kenyan population are those of iron, folate, zinc, iodine and Vitamin A,” he said.
In order for the Country to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Vision 2030, Dr. Rashid noted that nutrition must be given greater priority and investments towards nutrition programmes must be increased.
The Ministry of Health, he explained is coordinating the implementation of the multisector Kenya Nutrition Action Plan (KNAP) 2018 – 2022 whose objective is to accelerate and scale up efforts towards elimination of all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
He called upon all stakeholders who helped develop the Kenya Nutrition Action Plan to fully support the Ministry in the implementation of the prioritized nutrition interventions.
The CAS noted that the Summit provides an opportunity for stakeholder engagement in advancing food fortification agenda and to secure support and commitment towards elimination of malnutrition.
“It is my expectation that this summit will come up with key strategies needed to enhance compliance to the food fortification standards and to increase the proportion of households consuming fortified staples,” Rashid said.
He thanked the Development Partners, Food Industries, the various Ministries, Departments and government agencies for their support and great contribution in advancing the food fortification initiatives.
According to the 2020 Economic Survey, malnutrition is one of the leading causes for infant and young child admissions in health facilities in the period 2017-2019.
This is a threat to the realization of the Vision 2030 including the ‘Big Four’ Agenda as it contributes to increased health costs and reduced productivity.
Going by the findings of the “Cost of Hunger Study in Kenya”, which estimates the social and economic impact of child undernutrition in a given year, Kenya Vision 2030 predicts that if the prevalence of child stunting is reduced from 26 per cent in 2014 to 14.7 per cent by 2030, the economic impact of child undernutrition will decrease by Sh. 33.2 billion annually.
Additionally, the Summit resolutions will contribute to the ongoing Food Systems Summit National Dialogues being convened by the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives in preparation for the United Nation Food Systems Summit.
By Wangari Ndirangu