Xinhua News, 19 Dec 2017
The first national conference on rice fortification held here on Tuesday stressed on enriching rice with essential vitamins and minerals which could hold the key to a healthier and more productive future for the Nepalese people.
The two-day conference has been attended by world experts, government officials, representatives from various organizations who are reviewing the food fortification strategies and experiences in Nepal.
The event has been jointly organized by the Department of Health Services and Nepal Food Corporation in association with the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).
"Access to good nutrition is a human right that no individual should be denied. The national initiative will make a real difference in the everyday lives of millions by engaging multiple partners across different sectors," Health Minister Deepak Bohara said while addressing the event.
Malnutrition in general -- but even more so micronutrient malnutrition -- is a serious public health concern in Nepal. The country's rate of iron deficiency and anemia remains high.
According to the 2016 Nepal Demographic and Health Survey, more than one in four women of reproductive age, and more than half of children of 6-9 months, are anemic. Among pregnant and breastfeeding women, the prevalence of anemia stands at 46 percent.
According to WFP, the nutrients most commonly used in food grain fortification are iron and folic acid while fortifying rice with essential vitamins and minerals can lead to better health, especially among the poor and vulnerable.
"Chronic malnutrition, especially among women, adolescent girls and children, is a terrible burden for the people of Nepal, both in terms of health and economic productivity. Micro-nutrient fortification is a cost-efficient intervention that can really help tackle this problem," Pippa Bradford, WFP Nepal Country Director said.
The conference is expected to pave the way for a Plan of Action and the signing of a memorandum of understanding among key partners to initiate rice fortification in Nepal.