Fortify unveils partnership to promote consumption of iron fortified foods in West Africa

NIGERIA – US based social impact venture, Fortify has formed a strategic partnership with Nigerian Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) to curb Iron Deficiency and improve maternal survival in West Africa.

Founded in 2012, Fortify has been exploring market-based alternatives to iron fortified foods and advocating for its consumption in collaboration with food producers and leaders to save the lives of millions of women and children suffering from iron deficiency.

In West Africa, Fortify determined that tomato paste, an important ingredient in most meals, would be the best food vehicle for iron fortification as it is also rich in Vitamin C, a necessary nutrient to boost iron absorption.

The company said its efforts with leading food producers have already resulted in the monthly production of 20 million sachets of iron-fortified tomato paste varieties in Nigeria alone.

This is a historic milestone in food fortification as it is the first-ever, iron fortified tomato-based product. Production and distribution in Ghana are expected later this year.

The partnership with WBFA, a non-governmental organization dedicated to maternal, new-born and child health, brings substantial resources to support Fortify’s work.

WBFA was founded in 2004 by Her Excellency Mrs. Toyin Ojora Saraki, Former First Lady of Kwara State, with the aim of improving health outcomes for women, infants, and children.

In addition to its deep relationships with governments and institutions in West Africa and globally, WBFA has the infrastructure and network to educate community health workers and families about the potentially life-saving benefit of consuming this improved version of tomato paste, a West African staple.

“Joining forces with the Wellbeing Foundation at this juncture could not be better timing. Now that iron-fortified tomato mixes are reaching even the most rural villages, we can jointly work to help educate health care workers and women about the importance of adding iron to their diets,” said Fortify’s Founder and CEO, Nancy Martin.

Mrs. Saraki commented, “When we began discussions with Fortify, I was struck by how elegant yet practical a solution this is for iron deficiency anemia in that tomato paste is already built into the food supply and is a big part of meals every African eats.”

“Together, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa and Fortify are determined to end the devastating effects of iron deficiency on women and their families,” she added.

Iron deficiency is the most widespread public health disorder in the world, affecting at least one-third of the global population.

Iron is the essential element necessary for building blood. In developing countries, the main cause of iron deficiency is low iron bioavailability of the diet.

Premenopausal women are particularly vulnerable due to iron loss in menstrual blood and the increased iron demands of pregnancy.

The overall global prevalence of anemia is just over 40% among two highly vulnerable populations: women aged 15–49 years and children under the age of five.

In developing countries, the prevalence exceeds 50%. Iron deficiency can lead to premature labor, intrauterine growth retardation, low birth weight of the infant, birth asphyxia, neonatal anemia, and death (of both the mother and the child).

The consequences of iron deficiency not only affect personal health, but the economic health of communities and countries as well.

The World Bank and the Copenhagen Consensus have both ranked food fortification as one of the best investments in development in terms of cost effectiveness.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), food-based approaches represent the most desirable and sustainable method of preventing micronutrient malnutrition.

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