Fighting malnutrition in Pakistan
A recent report published by UNICEF estimates that at least one in two children under five1 suffers from hidden hunger due to deficiencies in vitamins and other essential nutrients. Pakistan is one of the many countries where a huge population – 38%1 of children under 5 years – is still suffering from stunting. People affected by malnutrition, such as vitamin A deficiency, can go blind and are more vulnerable to illnesses like measles or diarrheal diseases because of their weakened immune system. Malnutrition leads not only to illness and death, but also negatively affects economic development by increasing healthcare costs and incurring productivity losses.
“Malnutrition is a major public health challenge in Pakistan. Food fortification is one of the safe and cost-effective ways to prevent micronutrient deficiencies,” said Faranullah, Senior Manager Food Fortification, BASF Pakistan (Private) Limited. “But this cannot be done on our own. Successful implementation of a sustainable food fortification program relies on the commitment and joint effort between multiple stakeholders, including government authorities, academia, public-interest organizations and local private sectors, to provide nutritious, safe, and affordable food for the society.”
In 2010, having seen the alarmingly high number of children suffering malnutrition, BASF approached the leading edible oil manufacturer, Pakistan Vanaspati Manufacturers Association (PVMA), and NGOs Food Fortification Programme (FFP) and Micronutrient Initiatives (MI) to address the issue. Concurrently BASF worked with the government to introduce mandated food fortification legislation. Success was achieved when the bill for the fortification of edible oil was passed into legislation in 2015. With the appropriate government legislation and systems in place, compliance can be effectively monitored and enforced.
The Food Fortification Initiative is part of BASF’s efforts to address humanitarian challenges in an economically sustainable manner across the world. BASF’s Food Fortification Team is tasked with offering product solutions, technical assistance, and scientific capacities to contribute to reducing micronutrient deficiencies in over 40 countries across the world.
To address micronutrient deficiency in Pakistan, BASF and the Food Fortification Program (FFP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2017 to support the edible oil producers and industry in the country.
“Through the partnership with FFP, we want to raise awareness about the importance of food fortification and enhance nutritional values of the food supply to improve public health, and eventually contribute to the society and economic development in Pakistan,” said Faisal Akhtar, Managing Director, BASF Pakistan (Private) Limited.
Funded by United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), FFP is a five-year program managed by Mott MacDonald in partnership with Nutrition International, one of the world’s leading experts in nutrition and food fortification.
Together with FFP, BASF supported local millers to fortify edible oil with its affordable, high-quality vitamin A and D. Also, BASF provided technical assistance and training to build their capacity to fortify edible oil and ghee with vitamins. The quality control of fortified foods was made possible through BASF’s rapid test kits, which screened the vitamin A content in edible oils in a cost-effective fashion.
To ensure a sustainable supply of high-quality vitamins, BASF engaged a local channel partner to promote and distribute its Vitamin AD3. BASF enables the food and edible oil industry to meet the nutritional values and quality as recommended by the international fortification standards, and they also comply with the law and government regulations in Pakistan.
In 2019, BASF and FFP extended their partnership to 2021 and will continue to work towards a sustainable supply of vitamins and mobile testing kits to contribute to the adequate fortification of edible oil with essential nutrients to fight malnutrition.
“Food Fortification is one of the best investments in human development, according to leading economists. We are proud to support the UK’s FFP to help accelerate the human and economic potential of Pakistan,” said Andreas Blüthner, Director Food-Fortification & Partnerships, BASF Nutrition & Health.
1 The State of the World’s Children report 2019 by UNICEF