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Friday 15 December 2017, 17:56 pm.
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Food For The Soul

Fortifying Botswana's Future

Food is the cornerstone of life, and nutrition is the core substance of health and development. Worldwide nutrition has been recognised, in personal and policy circles, as central to attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
By BOITSHEPO GIYOSE (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Food For The Soul








And mind you that is not too far away. Yet given the generally not-so-satisfactory health and nutritional status of our country, one wonders if we will indeed measure up come 2015. Or will the MDGs be yet another flowery pronouncement down the drain, just like their predecessors - Health for all by 2000, Eradication of Micronutrient Deficiencies,and so on.

On the other hand what about our own Vision 2016, which interestingly is just one year after the MDG target date? Well, maybe with that extra year at our disposal, we can possibly achieve all the targets we set ourselves. But trust me; it will take some serious commitment and 16hour work days. The perpetual optimist that I am, I think it is quite doable. What do you think?In order to ensure a good future, the starting point has to be 'optimum nutrition for all'. I am talking here about being able to eat a variety of foods that contain all the nutrients, particularly vitamins and minerals in the right amounts on a sustained basis - daily.

But is it realistic or am I just dreaming? Okay this is where I am coming from with this seemingly ambitious expectation - people should be able to access the required vitamins and minerals through various strategies namely; diverse diets, supplementation, and fortified foods. Economics permitting of course..Before I continue rambling on about the future, let me pause to highlight a few facts on the significance of some vitamins and minerals so that we are all on the same page.

The deficiencies of these nutrients are so critical that to ignore them is tantamount to nutritional, health and developmental suicide.Only twenty years ago, iodine deficiency was associated with goitre and thought to affect only a tiny portion of the population. Today we know the truth.

It is said that more than a third of the world population is at risk of intellectual impairment and consequent loss of school achievement and work performance due to iodine deficiency. Iodine deficiency alone lowers one's IQ by some 10-15 percent, and causes mental retardation. Can you imagine? Lack of iron is recognised as one of the leading causes

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of preventable maternal deaths during childbirth.

One out of every five women dies during labour and delivery because of poor iron nutrition. Surely, should mothers be dying because of this simple mineral element, which they could very well get from fortified sorghum, maize, and other cereals?

Vitamin A is important for the prevention of childhood blindness. But in recent years, it has also been recognised for its effects on child growth and development, and on boosting and supporting the immune system.

Most child infections and deaths are influenced by lack of vitamin A by up to 40 percent. So think about this, about half the time your child is sick, it is most likely due to vitamin A deficiency.

The vitamin B complex is critical for how our genes function and replicate, thus ensuring prevention of birth defects, and mental degeneration.

And they are also important for the supply of energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Lack of these nutrients also leads to some forms of skin disease. What solutions are there to eradicate these deficiencies?

One of the most feasible and achievable is food fortification. Adding just a few grams of vitamins and minerals to maize meal, sorghum, wheat flour, oils, and even sugar is the most effective and sustainable way to improve nutrition.

Fortification is not a new concept - already most food manufactures are fortifying the products that we buy from the shops. In many parts of the world, adding these essential vitamins and minerals has eliminated a range of disease and disability. Botswana too can benefit!

The advantage of food fortification as a strategy is that the food is consumed by the majority of the population, take sorghum, maize meal, and bread for instance.

The technology is relatively simple; the product quality is not affected; consumer habits remain unchanged; benefit to the consumer is immense. Fortified foods are meant to provide about 30 percent of the daily requirements per serving. An added advantage is that the cost as compared to supplements is much less and there is no risk of overdose.
So what are we waiting for? Let's fortify our foods and our future!

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