Retired from civil service in Kenya
24 October 2017
FFI: What inspired you to become involved with food fortification?
Wefwafwa: My early working life was in the sugar belt area of western Kenya, and iron deficiency anemia was a big challenge affecting women and young children. Supplementation was not very successful due to poor compliance. There were a lot of success stories from Western and Eastern countries which had adapted food fortification. This appeared to be the perfect solution.
FFI: How is your country prioritizing fortification?
Wefwafwa: The magnitude of micronutrient deficiencies is well documented, and strategies to combat it are in place. Food fortification is highly prioritized as an affordable, effective and sustainable intervention. The government has created an enabling environment by putting legislation in place for mandatory fortification of the following food vehicles:
- Salt with iodine
- Cooking fats and oils with vitamin A
- Maize and wheat cereal flours with iron, folic acid and other B vitamins.
Also, there are standards for voluntary fortification of sugar with vitamin A.
FFI: What are the greatest challenges you have encountered in planning or implementing fortification programs? And how did you address those challenges?
i) Fortification standards: initial guidance was to formulate using local food consumption quantities. Although a food intake survey had been done, data generated on quantities could not be used as they were not accurate. We solved this by adopting the WHO general guidelines.
ii) Myths on fortified foods: there were rumors that the government was adding family planning to basic foods. Solved through communication to the public.
iii) Lack of public awareness on fortified foods: developed the food fortification logo and conducted social marketing projects for print and digital media and road shows.
iv) Industry unwillingness to incur additional costs to fortify: A public private sector forum, Kenya National Food Fortification Alliance, was established with industry players as members and leaders while the Ministry of Health (MOH) remained as secretariat. This enhanced their participation and ‘buy in’ into the process. We further engaged the Kenya Association of Manufactures for their support. From the discussions, MOH did capacity building for industry, and industry was given a grace period of one year before law was enforced. The project reimbursed half of the fortificant costs for first one year. The MOH also engaged the Ministry of Finance to remove tax on fortificants. This was achieved and was further adapted by the East African Community for all East African countries.
FFI: What can we do, as a society, to continue raising the fortification efforts?
Wefwafwa: Three things i) conduct social marketing and communication to raise consumers’ demand ii) implement legislation to ensure the consumer gets quality fortified foods on the market iii) remove taxes and duties related to the ongoing cost of fortification to keep these foods affordable to the majority.
We need consumers to be involved in monitoring as this is not a role to be left to the government alone. Consumer organizations and other civil society organizations including Community Based Organizations should be involved in social marketing to increase the need for fortified foods. Consumer organizations should monitor food quality by using rapid test kits.