The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nation of (FAO) on Tuesday handed over equipment to key partners in the implementation of the four-year European Union funded project titled "Improving food in The Gambia through food fortification".
The project being implemented in North Bank and Central River Regions and also in Banjul, aims particularly to improve nutrition and health outcomes of vulnerable women and children in The Gambia.
The recipient institutions were the Regional Agriculture and Livestock Directorate in NBR, CRR north and CRR South and the Food Technology Services under the Department of Agriculture, the Directorate of Health Promotion and Education under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, National Nutrition Agency, National Agricultural Research Institute and the Food Safety and Quality Authority of The Gambia.
Speaking at the handing over ceremony, FAO country Representative, Dr. Perpetua Katepa-Kalala, said that the EU-Funded food fortification project is worth EURO 5 million, and four million of which has been provided by the European Union through FAO.
She said the 2013 national Demographic Household Survey (DHS) had shown that one quarter of children, less than five years old were stunted and 10. 3% wasted: two thirds of children under five, and one third of pregnant women and 16% of lactating mothers had vitamin A deficiency.
She disclosed that three quarters of all women had iron deficiency, with two thirds of pregnant women and about half of lactating women being anemic.
According to Dr. Kalala, the micronutrient deficiencies afflict more than two billion individuals, or more in three people, globally, adding that such deficiencies occur when intake absorption of vitamins and minerals are too low to sustain good health and development.
Dr. Kalala further revealed that the Food Fortification project aims at improving the food and nutrition security of vulnerable women and children in The Gambia with specific objective focusing on enduring access to and consumption of micro nutrient rich foods, industrially fortified as well as bio-fortified with cohesive strategies for promoting better nutrition outcomes.
For his part, Darrel Sexstone, project manager and representative of the European Union delegation, stressed that food fortification increases the nutritional quality of existing diets and consumption patterns.
He disclosed that the EU Fortification Advisory Services came to the Gambia on a mission in May 2017 and produced a Gambian Country Profile on Food Fortification in June 2017 as well as SWOT Report on Food Fortification in the country.
Under the SWOT analysis, Mr. Sextone said that the strength of the country lies in the legislation on mandatory salt iodization which was enacted in The Gambia in 2000 and the Gambia Milling Corporation (GMC) operates one large modern roller mill in the country producing wheat flour sufficient to meet the needs of 70% of the population.
He said the recent funding support from the EU represents a huge opportunity towards expanding and improving Food Fortification in The Gambia, adding that the existence of willing partner agencies to implement the project such as the one being implemented by FAO should also be seen as an opportunity.