Japanese aid soon for Nepal to combat rampant anaemia

KATHMANDU: The government will rope in millers to boost production of fortified cereal flour to help reduce anemia and illnesses due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, mainly in rural areas.

To support this goal, Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR) — financed by the government of Japan and administered by Asian Development Bank (ADB) — will give grant of $1.8 million. The project aims to add iron, folic acid and vitamin A to milled wheat, maize and millet, benefiting around 200,000 people.

Anemia is a major health issue in Nepal, resulting in many maternal and perinatal deaths and growth problems in children. The government, along with a Canadian NGO, Micronutrient Initiative, is testing low-cost fortification systems at water and electric-powered chakki mills and the JFPR-funded project will help accelerate and expand this process.

“Fortified flour can reduce national rates of vitamin and mineral deficiencies within a year of implementation,” said Snimer Sahni, principal Project Economist in ADB’s South Asia Department. “The project will define the conditions, capacities and resources needed for sustainable expansion of small-mill flour fortification, benefitting the poor and vulnerable.”

The project will seek to find solutions to problems like recurring costs, supply and support system difficulties, quality assurance issues, and lack of consumer awareness. Among the innovations it will consider is community-based financing option, including possible channels for converting grain received as payment for use of milling facilities, into hard cash.

Community participation is a key element of the project, with 65 village development committees (VDCs) to receive resources for the delivery and monitoring of the use of nutrients by millers, for collecting payments, for providing

quality assurance monitors, and for raising community awareness. The target is to provide

360 small millers with the equipment and training to produce about 19,000 metric tonnes of fortified flour which will give nutrition protection to more than 200,000 people from 2010 to 2012.

Once the project outcomes have been assessed, they may be expanded to other parts of Nepal through ADB’s country assistance programme.

Along with JFPR, the government will provide $122,000, the private sector $14,725, and beneficiaries about $130,000, for a total project cost of $2.066 million. The Ministry of Health and Population is the executing agency for the project.