By: Kebba AF Touray

The National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) in collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and United Purpose (UP), have commenced a two day capacity building workshop for the members of the National Alliance for Food Fortification( NAFF), at a local hotel in Senegambia.

The objectives of the workshop were to foster dialogue between the public and private sectors to ensure a shared understanding of Food Fortification, identify opportunities for collaboration across sectors and to achieve common nutritional objectives, share lessons learnt and best practices from other Food Fortification Working Groups, discuss the roles and responsibilities of members of the Alliance and to come up with a clear roadmap for Food Fortification in the country.

In his welcome address, the Executive Director of NaNA Mr. Modou Cheyassin Phall, said the workshop is about capacity building for members of NAFF, so as to empower them with the requisite knowledge on their roles and responsibilities and how to effectively execute them.

He said this is part of European Union Support of the Bio and food fortification project, which he said is a laudable initiative to improve the nutritional status of the Gambian population.

He said 46-50 percent of children suffer from vitamin A deficiency, which contributes to child mortality and mobility.

“The food and bio fortification project has come to address the issue of micro nutrient deficiency and if these projects are implemented, we will see a significant reduction in the prevalence of micro nutrient deficiency in the country,” Phall said.

The FAO Country Representative Dr. Kalala, said the capacity building workshop marks a milestone in the life of the NAFF and expressed FAO’s delight to be associated with the project.

“The establishment of the National Alliance for Food Fortification and the capacity building of its members, is supported under a Five and Half Million Euro Food Fortification Project, to improve food security and nutrition in The Gambia, through food fortification, which is co-funded by EU and FAO”, she said.

While acknowledging the significant gains registered over the years, she revealed that greater effort is needed to combat malnutrition which claims the lives of millions of people around the world.

“According to FAO, micronutrient deficiency in particular afflicts more than two billion people or one in every three people on earth. Such deficiencies occur when intake and absorption of vitamins and minerals are too low to sustain good health and development. It has profoundly negative implications on women, children and society. Achieving a full nutrition impact on health and development, requires joint coordinated effort,” she stated.

The EU Ambassador to The Gambia Attila Lajos, said the FAO project is part of improving food security and nutrition in the Gambia, through food fortification; that it is indeed co-funded by the EU and FAO and that the project is a four year initiative; that the initial grant devoted is 275 million dalasi, effective March 2017 to February 2021, and will cover West Coast, North Bank and Central Regions of the country.

The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health Mr. Cherno Barry, on behalf of the Vice President said the project is jointly implemented by FAO, in close partnership with NaNA, Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Quality Authority, the National Research Institute, United Purpose and others.

“I am reliably informed that the objective of this multi million-euro project is to improve micronutrient intake and health outcomes of vulnerable women and children in The Gambia. This project is integrating capacity building as a key strategy to strengthen nutrition outcomes for improve public private partnership and the reinforcement of the regulatory system on food fortification in The Gambia,” he said; that the 2013 DHS Report indicated that anaemia among women and children is high with an overall percentage of 60 to 73% and the consumption of idolized salt has increased from 42% in 2010 to 76% in 2013. Thus food fortification and salt idolization regulation was enacted in 2006 to facilitate micronutrient deficiency control and interventions.

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