Fortified rice to combat malnutrition in BD : WFP

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 18 Aug 2017, 00:42:24
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Fortified rice to combat malnutrition in BD : WFP

A new study has shown that consuming fortified rice can significantly reduce anaemia and zinc deficiencies among the poorest women in Bangladesh, reports bdnews24.com.

Conducted by the research centre icddr,b and on behalf of the United Nations World Food Programme or WFP, the study measured the impact of providing rice enriched with micronutrients to women participating in the government's vulnerable group development (VGD) programme.

The study, released on Thursday in Dhaka, also found that fortified rice, when combined with training and cash grants for investment, can also contribute to women's empowerment.

The study determined that the prevalence of anaemia dropped by 4.8 per cent and zinc deficiency reduced by 6 per cent among women consuming fortified rice.

The research compared VGD women who received 30kg of fortified rice and an investment grant of Tk 15,000 ($185), with those who received 30kg of normal (non-fortified) rice per month.

This is the first time that the use of fortified rice in a government safety net programme has been tested in Bangladesh.  Fortification in salt (with iodine) and oil (with vitamin A) is common in Bangladesh.

The VGD programme reaches more than one million ultra-poor women and their families, totalling about five million people.

"The findings are very promising," said Christa Räder, WFP representative in Bangladesh.

"Now we have a much better understanding of how integrating fortified rice into government safety net programmes can help improve women's micronutrient status."

The overall objective of rice fortification is to fight micronutrient deficiencies among the poorest.

Low dietary diversity and scanty intake of nutrient-rich foods remain a challenge in Bangladesh, despite a significant decline in poverty in recent years.

With rice being the main commodity distributed through the government's food-based social safety nets reaching the ultra-poor, the introduction of fortified rice can address the widespread nutritional deficiencies and help ensure an active and healthy life.

Fortified rice kernels look, taste and cook like ordinary rice but are enhanced with essential micronutrients.

They are combined with regular rice at a WHO approved ratio of 1 to 100 which means in 10kg regular rice 100 gram fortified rice can be added.

State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Meher Afroz Chumki, her ministry's Secretary Nasima Begum, and Ambassador of the Netherlands Leoni Margaretha Cuelenaere were also present at the launch of study findings.

Dr Tahmeed Ahmed, senior director of the nutrition and clinical services division of icddr,b, presented the findings.

The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has allocated more than $1 million to distribute fortified rice in 35 upazilas covered by the VGD programme in fiscal 2017-2018.

The Scaling-up Rice Fortification Initiative is supported by the Embassy of Netherlands in Bangladesh and implemented by government agencies in collaboration with WFP.

The WFP said they would take further steps to support the private sector in making fortified rice commercially available at affordable prices and creating demand among consumers.

The state minister said the government would finance the continuous scaling-up of fortification in the VGD programme.

The ambassador of Netherlands, Cuelenaere, said the research is relevant to the government, the development partners and garments sector and private partners.
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