Consultancy - Fortification Standards

Job
from UN Children's Fund
Closing date: 30 Jun 2018

If you are a committed, creative professional and are passionate about making a lasting difference for children, the world's leading children's rights organization would like to hear from you. For 70 years, UNICEF has been working on the ground in 190 countries and territories to promote children's survival, protection and development. The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

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Background and Justification

The Sultanate of Oman is a high income country of 4.2 million people. Over the past 40 years, economic stability and income growth have gone hand-in-hand with rapid reductions in child and maternal mortality, universal child immunization, universal primary education, and strong political will to address the rights of women and girls. At the national level, undernutrition in children has consistently declined over the past few decades. The prevalence of underweight in children decreased from 24.4% in 1991 to 8.6% in 2009. In contrast, stunting prevalence has only declined from 10.6% in 1999 to 9.8% in 2009. In March 2018, the Nutrition Department at the Ministry of Health and UNICEF launched the findings of the Oman National Nutrition Survey (ONNS) which was conducted the previous year. The findings have given cause to review a number of national programs, including those related to food fortification.

The most recent assessment of the anemia prevalence in Oman indicate severe and moderate public health problems in children and women, respectively. Some micronutrient deficiencies are widespread and others remain unmeasured. Specifically, vitamin D deficiency has been shown to affect one out of four women of reproductive age; however, vitamin D has yet to be assessed on a representative sample of children. Moreover, the high rate of consanguineous marriage in Oman may increase the prevalence of recessively inherited hemoglobinopathies, resulting in an increased prevalence of anemia.

In addition to prioritizing nutrition in the national health policy, Oman’s government has implemented various programs to address micronutrient deficiencies over the past two decades, including salt iodization, fortification of wheat flour with iron and folate, and fortification of edible oil with vitamins A and D. In addition, Omani health facilities carry out nutrition screening during the well-child checks and Oman's schools routinely collect nutrition and health data from students. Oman’s flour fortification program mandates the addition of 1.5 ppm of folic acid and 60 ppm of elemental iron. This program was implemented in 1996. Currently, it covers more than 75% of Oman’s population and has been associated with the reduction in rates of Spina Bifida. In addition, a previous survey found a lower prevalence of iron deficiency in women living in households where more fortified flour was consumed.

According to Oman’s current fortification standards, 1.5 ppm of folic acid is added to wheat flour. This fortification level is below the WHO guidelines that recommend that 2.6 ppm of folic acid should be added if per capita wheat flour consumption is between 75-149 grams per day. The ONNS estimated that consumption of wheat products is 97 grams per person per day. In addition, folate deficiency affects about one out of ten women. Therefore, increasing the quantity of folic acid to be added to wheat flour should be considered. Oman currently does not mandate the fortification of wheat flour with vitamin B12, and including vitamin B12 in the wheat flour fortification standards should also be considered as a strategy to reduce the vitamin B12 deficiency prevalence.

These are some highlights of the ONNS findings, which also made recommendations to reduce vitamin D deficiencies through the fortification of vegetable oil, and measure fortification compliance of flour, bread and oil. Due to high consumption of vegetable oil and the existing oil fortification policy, vitamin D fortification would be an effective approach to reach the majority of the Omani population by using an existing public health program and infrastructure. Fortification of foods with vitamin D has been successfully implemented in the United States and Canada and was added to Jordan's wheat flour fortification program in 2010.

Recognizing this significant need to enhance the nutritional status of women and children, the Government of Oman (GoO) and UNICEF’s Joint Country Programme 2017-2020 is focusing on Integrated Early Childhood Development (IECD) and nutrition as one of its key priorities. The aim is to address major barriers that contribute to stunting, wasting, anaemia, and the need for improved feeding practices and care-seeking behaviours. Efforts will cut across government sectors for health and nutrition, education, and social development for more coherent and streamlined delivery of services for young children and greater accountability by service providers. This is in line with the GoO National Five Year Plan 2016-2020 priority to ensure that pre-school age children thrive and are prepared to learn at school which will further contribute to the achievement of the SDG targets to: reduce the under-5 mortality rate (3.2) and the prevalence of stunting among children under-5 years (2.2).

Scope of Work

This consultancy is based on a request from the Ministry of Health in Oman, to review Oman’s fortification standards to ensure they align with WHO standards and address the ONNS findings on key micronutrient deficiencies.

Purpose and Objectives

The main objectives of this consultancy are:

  • Assess the current fortification program and whether there is adequate legislation, regulation, and/or standards that create an enabling environment for food fortification and regular monitoring: availability in the market, levels of fortification and levels of consumption of fortified wheat flour and vegetable oil, at production and retail sites, vis-à-vis government standards and regulations as well as monitoring systems.
  • Recommend specific fortification policy/standards changes in order to ensure alignment with WHO global standards, and in response to ONNS findings.
  • Expected Deliverables and timeline

    Key Activities

    Task (1):

  • Desk review of all relevant resources from Oman regarding fortification standards (ONNS, legislation concerning fortification standards, report of preliminary market review and other key MoH and national reports)
  • No. of days (estimated) = 2 days

    Deliverable

  • Inception report for the assignment updating the technical proposal and outlining:

  • Gaps and issues to be addressed, and priority steps to improving the national food fortification standards and its monitoring
  • The methodology and tools adopted to serve the assignment objectives.
  • The list of stakeholders to be interviewed.
  • Task (2):

  • In-country: conduct an assessment of availability, compliance with current standards and consumption of fortified wheat flour and vegetable oil at the production and retail level.
  • Conduct meetings with relevant stakeholders at the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Commerce, UN sister agencies and other relevant stakeholders to assess barriers and challenges to the full implementation and monitoring of the fortification standards.
  • No. of days (estimated) = 4 days

    Deliverable

  • Mission report, outlining:

  • outcomes of the interviews in relation to gaps in policies, rules, procedures and systems
  • actions proposed for relevant stakeholders
  • proposed fortification policy and legislation changes
  • recommendations on strengthening monitoring.
  • Task (3):

  • Validating and finalising a new draft of the fortification policy/standards, highlighting changes from the current policy and reflecting how these align with WHO global standards and address ONNS findings.
  • No. of days (estimated) = 3 days

    Deliverable

  • Draft report outlining policy recommendations and interventions (for government counterparts and UNICEF)
  • Final version of the revised fortification policy based on feedback from MoH and UNICEF (validation conducted remotely).
  • Administrativerequirements

    Expected places of travel, insurance, per diem, payments and responsibilities between UNICEF and the consultant team:

  • Consultants will make their own travel arrangements based on an agreed travel schedule. UNICEF will cover airfare of the consultant team to Oman in Economy class via the most direct and economical route.
  • When in-country, the consultants/institutional team will be required to report on a daily basis to the UNICEF Supervisor.
  • For long stays in-country, the team will be entitled to the same weekends and UN holiday schedule as UNICEF staff.
  • Transportation upon arrival and departure is to be arranged by the travellers, terminal expense will be provided by UNICEF.
  • For in-country stays, UNICEF will provide a DSA not exceeding the UN DSA rate.
  • Any in-country travel related to the consultant team’s assignment will be arranged for and covered by UNICEF.
  • Consultants need to arrange their own insurance (life, health and other forms of insurance) covering the term of the contract while in Oman, and need to provide proof of such insurance prior to travel.
  • Consultants will make their own arrangements for booking accommodation, and UNICEF will support them to obtain UNICEF corporate rates. Settlement of any accommodation will be made directly by the consultants with the hotel.
  • UNICEF will not provide the consultants with any equipment, unless it is requested by the consultants and approved by Operation Unit with appropriately completed form.
  • Qualification & Specialized knowledge

    An institution or team of consultants is sought for this assignment with specialized knowledge in:

  • Advanced degree in nutrition, food sciences and technology, food industries or other related fields.
  • Expertise and experience in staple food fortification standards.
  • Proven experience with drafting national food fortification policies is essential.
  • Excellent facilitation skills for consultations with government counterparts, stakeholders and decision makers.
  • English is required for all UNICEF communication.
  • Submission of proposal

    Interested candidates should include in their proposals the following:

    The Offer should be in two parts: Part A – Technical; Part B – Financial, of no more than 5 pages.

    Part A: Technical

  • Background information that includes an interpretation and understanding of the terms of reference;
  • Methodology and approach outlining a clear conceptual and analytical framework for the work to be undergone;
  • Proposed work plan outlining clear timeframe and logical steps in conducting the assignment;
  • Name and brief background of the vendor, including existing experience and expertise that will be of benefit to the proposed assignment;
  • Names and contact information of referees for the 3 most recent and relevant projects.
  • Part B: Financial

  • An itemized budget divided into professional fees and direct cost of activities in United States Dollars. Budget to include estimated costs of travel, DSA and terminal expenses.
  • How to apply:

    UNICEF is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages qualified female and male candidates from all national, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including persons living with disabilities, to apply to become a part of our organization. To apply, click on the following link http://www.unicef.org/about/employ/?job=513888