Vol 2 No 12_2018: A Situational Analysis of Regional Investments, Policies, Legislation and Advocacy Efforts on Food-based Approaches to Combating Micro-nutrient Deficiency in Sub-Saharan Africa: Focus on Bio-fortification

Download a full copy:  Vol 2 No 12_2018: A Situational Analysis of Regional Investments, Policies, Legislation and Advocacy Efforts on Food-based Approaches to Combating Micro-nutrient Deficiency in Sub-Saharan Africa: Focus on Bio-fortification


Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of hunger and where one person out of four is undernourished. Micro-nutrient malnutrition, often referred to as hidden hunger, is an additional problem the region faces. Micro-nutrients are vital for a range of essential functions in the body and for growth and development. Micro-nutrient malnutrition is a risk factor for disease, low productivity and death, especially among young children. The most prevalent micro-nutrient disorders that are considered to be of public health significance are vitamin A deficiency, iron deficiency anemia and zinc and iodine deficiency. An estimated 163 million children and women of reproductive age in the region are anemic, while about 44% of preschool children are vitamin A deficient. Some 24% of all child deaths are attributable to vitamin A deficiency. The poor dietary diversity inherent in many communities in sub-Saharan Africa, coupled with the high burden of infectious diseases, makes it difficult to meet the daily micro-nutrient requirements.

Current efforts to address the prevailing micro-nutrient malnutrition in sub-Saharan include supplementation programs that provide iron and vitamin A capsules to women of reproductive age and children under the age of five through the health sector. Even where this supplementation coverage is high, the efforts target only the most vulnerable groups, yet micro-nutrient deficiencies are of public health significance and the entire population needs to have access to adequate micro-nutrients. Food-based approaches for addressing micro-nutrient malnutrition have so far been largely limited to commercial food fortification of salt with iodine, cooking oil, sugar and margarine with vitamin A, and flour and maize meal with iron and B vitamins. The coverage of fortified foods is dependent on how developed the market infrastructure is. In sub-Saharan Africa many rural communities have limited access to commercially processed and fortified foods. Often, locally processed foods and unfortified foods are more readily available and cheaper. The promotion of dietary diversification, nutrition-sensitive food production systems, and nutrition education has not received the focus and sustained attention necessary to effect sustainable behavior change. Biofortification provides an additional strategy for addressing micronutrient malnutrition and it has the potential to reach the remote rural areas often not easily reached by the existing initiatives.

The Building Nutritious Food Baskets (BNFB) Project is being implemented in Nigeria and Tanzania from 2015 to 2018. Its main goal is to support and accelerate the scaling up of biofortified crops for food and nutrition security and improved micronutrient nutrition. The project has adopted a multi- crop food basket approach and advocates for increased investment in the integration of biofortified food crops into food systems. It also contributes to the sustainable solutions for addressing micronutrient malnutrition, especially in the vulnerable groups of young children and women. The specific objectives of BNFB are to strengthen the enabling environment for increased investments in biofortified crops and develop institutional and individual capacities to produce and consume biofortified crops. The project acknowledges the critical supportive role regional institutions can play in providing an enabling policy environment for biofortification.

This situation analysis report provides a snapshot of the regional and sub-regional policies and frameworks that support bio-fortification and the organizations implementing various nutrition- sensitive initiatives. The report identifies some ongoing initiatives that are relevant to the BNFB mandate and that can be aligned to its activities to facilitate its starting up and scaling up. The report recommends the key actions necessary to facilitate increased investment in and scaling up of bio-fortified crops in sub-Saharan Africa. It also provides guidance on the broad strategic areas that could form the focus in the development of a regional advocacy strategy for the BNFB Project, and serve as the basis of a plan of work for bio-fortification advocacy champions for stimulating sustainable investments in the production and consumption of bio-fortified crops.

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