Food fortification as a key nutritional intervention is largely underutilized in most developing countries despite its potential in combating micronutrient deficiencies mainly caused by dietary deficiency of vitamins and minerals. This gap continues to remain an insidious public health problem in many countries, threatening physical and economic welfare of families.
More than 2 billion people in the world today suffer from MND. Although all population groups in all regions of the world may be affected, the most widespread and severe problems are usually found amongst resource poor, food insecure and vulnerable households in developing countries. The key factors contributing to poor uptake of fortification are: less food processing industries which have limited capacity to fortify products, lack of policies, regulation and legislation to spearhead the fortification process, reluctant political leadership to source for best practices and resources in such areas, limited human resource due to poverty and high levels of illiteracy and lack of funding to finance food fortification. For countries like Somalia, persistent civil war, cultural beliefs and barriers elongate the list.
Micronutrient malnutrition has long-ranging effects on health, learning ability and productivity, hence a major impediment to socio-economic development. Health consequences suffered during this period due to a certain deficiency are irreversible even if good nutrition is provided later in life. This therefore creates a vicious cycle of under-development and especially to the already underprivileged groups. Globally, the main micronutrients of public health concern are iodine, iron, and vitamin A.
WHO recommends several strategies for improving dietary intakes of micronutrients: breastfeeding, diet diversification, food fortification, supplementation including nutrition education and observance of public health measures to treat and control diseases. The micronutrient status of a given population is therefore dependent on the food security and nutrition conditions in that country.
In Somalia, the food security and nutrition status of majority of the population has remained as Critical or Stressed over the years. The economic livelihood of the Somalia population is largely comprised of pastoralists with majority of the population keeping goats, camels and a few sheep. Other livelihoods are agro-pastoralist which is a mix of agriculture and livestock production and agriculturalists mainly found around the riverine regions.
Agriculture is primarily rain-fed, making this livelihood extremely vulnerable to climatic hazards. Livestock prices are often stable, although they can increase due to factors like improved livestock body conditions, reduced supply and increased demand for local consumption.
Cultivated crops include cereals - sorghum and maize - with very little legumes, pulses, fruits and vegetables. The main diet for majority of the urban population comprise of rice and pasta, while in the rural areas, sorghum and maize constitute the main diet. The foods consumed both in the rural and urban areas are good fortification vehicles X. Lack of enabling basic structures together with other underlying constraints justifies the need for a food fortification strategy. The development of Somalia National Food Fortification Strategic Plan for 2019-2024 involved a desk review of background documentation on food security, health and nutrition and consultations with key stakeholders involved in nutrition programs in Somalia.
This document contains the goal of the Strategy including Strategic Objectives, priority micronutrient interventions that will be implemented in the next 5 years (2019-2024); and Strategic Areas of focus during the lifespan of the Strategy.
The goal of this Strategic Plan is therefore to: “To improve nutritional status of people in Somalia, by combating micronutrient deficiencies through national food fortification for accelerated socioeconomic development.