NAFF members capacitised on food fortification

Friday, May 11, 2018

A two-day capacity building for in-country stakeholders, who are members of the National Alliance for Food Fortification (NAFF) on Thursday, began at a hotel in Kololi.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s project titled ‘Improving Food Security and Nutrition in The Gambia through Food Fortification’ is co-funded by the EU and FAO. The project is four years duration and the initial grant awarded was around 275 million dalasis.

 However, the synergy is designed to foster dialogue between public and private sectors to ensure a shared understanding of food fortification; to identify opportunities for collaboration across sectors in a bid to achieve common nutritional objectives as well as to discuss the roles and responsibilities of each members of the alliance.

Stepping in for the vice president and minister of Women’s Affairs, Cherno Barry, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, stated that over the past two decades, food insecurity, poverty and malnutrition have not improved much and were a real challenge affecting the population especially those living in the rural areas.

“Being cognizant of the fact that nutrition is not a single sectoral issue, but rather a crosscutting one, has led the government of The Gambia to recognise nutrition as an important pillar of national development’.

He made reference to the NaNA which is under the Office of the Vice President, charged with the responsibility for better coordinating nutrition and nutrition related programmes across the country.

The project, he said, is integrating capacity building as a key strategy to strengthen nutrition outcomes for improved public-private sector partnership and the reinforcement of the regulatory systems on food fortification.

He noted that the project is in line with the efforts to ensure maximum intake of foods rich in micronutrient so as to improve the health and nutritional status of children and women especially during the first 1000 days window of opportunity, which is from conception to the first two years of the child’s life.

Ambassador Attila LAJOS, the EU ambassador to The Gambia for his part, acknowledged that food fortification increases the nutritional quality of existing diets and consumption patterns.  Further, he maintained that bio-fortification through improved crop quality and large scale food fortification programmes makes a huge contribution towards improving food quality.

Ambassador Lajos explained that the project is working principally in the West Coast, North Bank and Central River Regions, adding that its intended results are to improve the national food fortification regulatory framework, strengthen public and private sector capacities to support food fortification as well as to increase awareness about and access to fortified flour and rice.

The project , he went on, is there intended to contribute to better national fortification management and improved health and nutrition indicators, especially the reduction of stunting and wasting and normal cognitive development in children.

Dr. Katepa Kalala, the country representative, Food and Agriculture Organisation  of the United Nations, said the project aims to improve micro-nutrients nutrition and health outcomes of vulnerable women and girls in The Gambia, saying their presence shows a strong commitment to work towards eradicating all forms of malnutrition in The Gambia.

She noted that NAFF will ensure that a sustained regulatory mechanism is in place and meet regularly to discuss challenges and emerging issues emanating from industries, food importers and other stakeholders hindering compliance .

She underscored the core mandate of FAO, which she said, is to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living to ensure humanity’s freedom from hunger by promoting sustainable agricultural development thereby alleviating poverty.

She thanked the government of The Gambia for the excellent relationship which FAO and United Nations enjoy with government partners in ensuring continued support for enhanced nutrition and food security and for meeting all of the SDGs goals that the country has prioritised.

Author: Sheriff Janko