Solomon Islands Begins Work Toward Wheat Flour and Rice Fortification

26 February 2015

A Food Fortification National Committee in the Solomon Islands had its first meeting 25 February to enter into a public private partnership to tackle under-nutrition in the country. This effort will help people consume more vitamins and minerals.

Without enough nutrients, Solomon Islanders are suffering from three mostly preventable health problems: nutritional anaemia, neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida, and stunting.

The 2006-2007 Demographic Health Survey revealed that nearly one in two women of child bearing age and one in two children under five are anaemic. Also, one-third of children are stunted, which is a sign of long-term under-nutrition.

"The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) is pleased to be working across the government, with the private sector and development partners towards fortifying wheat flour and rice," said MHMS Permanent Secretary Dr Tenneth Dalipanda.

The new multi-sector Food Fortification National Committee will guide the program. The plan calls for iron, folic acid and zinc to be added to all wheat flour and rice from industrial mills. This will not affect the products’ taste, appearance, smell, or cooking.

Increasing iron intake will reduce the prevalence of anaemia caused by iron deficiency. Iron is vital for human health as it helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also required for energy production and plays a major role in cognitive development and neurological functions.

Folic acid is a B vitamin that can prevent neural tube birth defects. The most common of these is spina bifida in which the spinal cord does not fully form. It has no cure. Another neural tube defect is anencephaly. In this case, the brain does not fully develop, and it leads to death.

Zinc promotes growth and aids recovery from infections and diarrhea.

Government Ministries that are signatories to the partnership agreement are the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, and Ministry of Finance and Treasury as well as the Government of Australia. Businesses included in the agreement are Delite Flour Mill and Solomon Rice Company Ltd (Solrice). Non-government groups and United Nations agencies involved are the Food Fortification Initiative, World Health Organization, and UNICEF. Officials of the Government of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the Solomon Islands were instrumental in bringing the parties together to work toward this goal.

Solomon Islands

Committee photo by Steve Alufurai for the Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Medical Services.