An integrated food fortification project, which was launched in Rajasthan in February this year to combat micro-nutrient malnutrition, has crossed a new milestone with the inclusion of edible oil in the drive. The project has been making rapid strides towards improving health and nutritional status of thousands of people in the desert State.
Four edible oil manufacturing companies joined hands here over the week-end for providing better nutrition to the people in the State by fortifying their select edible oil brands with vitamins A and D. This has been done as part of the project being implemented by the Indian Institute of Health Management & Research (IIHMR) with technical and financial support from the international developmental agency, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).
GAIN board members were here to witness the launch of fortified oil at a symposium on “Better nutrition for better future”. So far, fortified wheat flour alone was being supplied in the State through the channels such as public distribution system, Integrated Child Development Services and mid-day meals programme.
Addressing the symposium, Rajasthan State Planning Board Deputy Chairman V. S. Vyas said the State Government had launched several innovative schemes to improve the health and nutritional status of all, and in particular that of women and children, and was making serious efforts to strengthen the schemes for maternal and child health.
Prof. Vyas, also a member of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, praised the project’s expansion and point out that fortification of foods provided under various food safety net programmes would help bridge the gap between the current and the desired nutrition and health status of the vulnerable population groups.
GAIN executive director Marc Van Ameringen said the global agency was committed to improving the nutrition and health status of women and children in India and was supporting various food fortification projects in partnership with governments, U.N. agencies, national and international NGOs and academic institutions as well as with food industry, by providing technical and financial support to fight malnutrition.
State Women's Commission Chairperson Laad Kumari Jain said there was a consensus for reducing the high prevalence of anaemia and vitamin A deficiency and the wheat flour fortification had yielded encouraging results: “We will be able to scale up this project with the support of industry partners and take the benefits of nutritious food products to people across the State.”
While GAIN chairperson Jay Naidoo said the State Government's commitment for dealing with malnutrition was commendable, GAIN special advisor Rajan Sankar pointed out that a better awareness among the people about impacts of micronutrient deficiency would create more demand. Quality assurance is also one of the major aspects to combat deficiency, he added.
IIHMR Director S. D. Gupta said while the food fortification programme aims at addressing the problem of malnutrition at the grassroots, the project brings together experts from various fields to arrive at “all-encompassing and comprehensive” solutions. This biggest-ever food fortification programme seeks to lend a decisive edge to the fight against malnutrition, he said
At another function marking the launch of a school-feeding programme for five educational institutions at Vatika village on the outskirts on Jaipur, State Food & Civil Supplies Minister Babulal Nagar said though malnutrition was a world-wide challenge, the State Government was taking concerted steps to protect the health and nutrition levels of population.
Mr. Nagar said the Government-owned Saras Dairy in Jaipur would fortify eight lakh litres of milk everyday for being supplied to consumers in the near future. Among others, Swami Govind Das of Akshay Patra Foundation, IIHRM trustee and former Chief Secretary M. L. Mehta and National Confederation of Dalit Oganisations chairman Ashok Bharati were present.