A plan to deliver fortified foods to 45 million South African consumers - 30 million of whom face the risk of micronutrient deficiency - was among the initiatives announced at the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit in Durban this week.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) announced that it had approved South Africa's proposal and had set aside US $2.8 million, over three years, for the programme.
By fortifying foods with vitamins and minerals the project could "save millions of lives and prevent crippling conditions such as blindness and mental retardation," a GAIN statement said.
The project aims to get the fortified food to consumers within the next six to 18 months.
"Micronutrient deficiency also has many invisible economic effects that are widely underestimated, because they sap the energy of working-age people and hurt the learning ability of children, causing billions of dollars in lost productivity in developing countries, who can least afford it," Jay Naidoo, chairman of both the Development Bank of South Africa and GAIN, was quoted as saying.
GAIN is a coalition of public and private sector organisations which started with a US $50 million grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This was followed by contributions from Canada, the USA and the Netherlands, with the World Bank serving as the trustee.
South Africa, Vietnam, Morocco and China would be the first four countries to benefit from GAIN's fortification programme.
The WEF Africa Economic Summit 2003 has been taking place in the South African port city of Durban since Wednesday. Conference attendees, ranging from heads of state to captains of industry, have discussed a wide range of topics, among them support for the New Partnership for Africa's Development - NEPAD.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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