Pakistan: Flour fortification in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa improves maternal health

Khalid Iqbal (right), MI's Provincial Coordinator for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, works with a flour miller on fortification.

Khalid Iqbal (right), MI’s Provincial Coordinator for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, works with a flour miller on fortification.

Five years after a powerful earthquake devastated many regions in Pakistan, MI continues to help Pakistanis rebuild their lives by improving the health of their families through wheat flour fortification.

Khalid Iqbal, MI’s Provincial Coordinator for the heavily-earthquake-damaged Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province), has been part of the Commercial Wheat Flour Fortification Project since it started in 2007; the project has benefitted about half a million people to date.

“Flour fortification is especially important for girls and women; it addresses their special needs for adequate iron levels and reduces school dropout rates,” he said. “It also contributes to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, improving educational outcomes and improving maternal health.”

Central to the success of the project has been the strong coordination between the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Branch of the Pakistan Flour Miller Association and its associated members.

“The Association has really helped MI get information out about the importance of fortified wheat flour and has worked with us to educate the millers on the use of premix. Together we monitor the production and quality of the flour,” described Khalid.

Also vital to the project has been the involvement of health workers who have been involved in social mobilization activities.

“They’ve helped us spread the message about the benefits of fortified flour to different communities; even doctors have been telling their patients. But we still have work to do to build more awareness among a broader audience.”

Khalid sees two big hurdles facing the project’s sustainability, the first being lack of fortification legislation.

“Mandatory legislation levels the playing field for the millers and makes standards easier to enforce,” he explained. The second hurdle is irregular and poor quality of the wheat supply. “But millers are motivated and we are all committed to ensuring a good quality product with health benefits.”

This project was undertaken with funding from the World Food Programme.