Health officials have started a campaign to persuade people to eat bread made of mixed grains and whole wheat in a bid to tackle malnutrition and counteract soaring wheat prices. Yemen imports some 95 percent of its wheat.
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Ismael Muharram, head of the Ministry of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Authority, said many consumers preferred white bread, which is devoid of bran, even though bran is nutritious and has a high fibre content, he said.
"Bran is generally used for animal fodder," he told IRIN.
Mixed grain bread is made of wheat and grains like corn and millet. "The mixture could be 70 percent wheat and 30 percent other grains, or the wheat content could also be [as low as] 50 percent," he said.
Muharram said that if wheat constituted 70 percent, the bread colour would not change (to brown). "The colour and taste would change if the wheat content were 50 percent."
He pointed out that considerable savings could be made if consumers switched to eating mixed grain bread, but he acknowledged that it could take 3-5 years for them to get used to it.
"If, for example, we imported 1.5 million tonnes of wheat a year, we would be saving on the cost of importing 500,000-700,000 tonnes," he said.
Local wheat production accounts for a diminishing share of wheat consumed, and currently stands at only about 5 percent: Yemen imported 2,799,000 tonnes of wheat in 2007 and produced 149,000 tonnes, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
Najib Abdul-Qader, head of the Ministry of Health's nutrition department, told IRIN mixed-grain bread would be beneficial in terms of reducing malnutrition as it contained more vitamins, minerals and fibres.
"Here at the Ministry of Health we are encouraging the use of whole wheat that has not been husked, as the bran contains vitamins and fibres.”
Malnourishment is still a big concern in Yemen. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 46 percent of children under five are underweight, 12 percent suffer from wasting, and 53 percent from stunting. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has said 40 percent of Yemen's 21 million people are malnourished.
Abdul-Qader said his department had conducted a survey in three of the 21 governorates in late 2007 to assess malnutrition, and that the results would be announced in a month's time.
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