Category archives for: Health

Liberia: Liberia to Send Blood Samples Abroad in Latest Disease Outbreak

Photo: Liberian Observer

Liberian Health Minister Bernice Dahn

By Lennart Dodoo

Monrovia — Liberia does not have the capacity to diagnose the latest disease outbreak which has already killed at least 11 persons in Sinoe County.

Nine infected persons are undergoing treatment. There are fears that the number may rise.

The country’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Francis Kateh told reporters Friday that the Health Ministry is considering sending blood samples broad for further testing.

According to Dr. Kateh, initial tests conducted to determine Ebola proved negative. However, the current laboratory is not equipped to determine food poison, which many suspect to be the cause of the sudden outbreak.

Those infected with the “strange” disease showed symptoms of severe stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and headaches

Doctors suspect that the disease can be spread through body contacts.

Residents of the county, according to reports, have begun taking precautionary measures introduced during the Ebola outbreak.

Sinoe County is one of few counties which were not affected by the Ebola Virus Disease that struck the country in 2014.

More on This

Liberia to Send Blood Samples Abroad in ‘Mysterious Deaths’ Case


Mysterious Deaths ‘Not From Ebola’Strange Disease Outbreak in Sinoe County – Nine Persons Already DeadSeven Die From ‘Strange’ Sickness in Sinoe

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it had sent rapid response teams to the area to assist Liberian health officials with technical and logistical support.The teams were investigating reports linking the disease to attendance at the funeral of a religious leader in Sinoe County.”The investigation teams will try to find if this could be in relation to the consumption of same food and drinks and if there is an environmental exposure to some chemicals or bacteria,” the WHO said in a statement.According to reports, seven of the deaths were linked to the death of an 11-year-old who died on Sunday, April 23, 2017.She died after showing symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting and mental confusion.She was immediately taken to F.J. Grante Hospital where she reportedly died within one hour after she was admitted into the emergency room.She reportedly attended the funeral ceremony of a religious leader on Saturday, April 23, in Greenville.The religious leader is said to have died at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. He was diagnosed of high blood pressure.On Monday, April 24, another patient from Down Town Community who also attended the funeral of the religious leader presented symptoms of head ache, skin itching and body pain. He was admitted the same night at the F.J. Grant Hospital died by 2:00 A.M. Monday morning.Another lady from Red Hill community who also attended the same funeral presented symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. She died upon arrival at the Grant Hospital.A local journalist in the county described the situation as “tragic” and said it has instilled fears in many of the inhabitants of the county.Rep. Jefferson Kanmoh (APD- District #3 Sinoe County) also described the outbreak as “very disturbing and a source for serious concern”.”There is panic in the county right now for many reasons.””Many recall our recent past where Ebola killed a good number of our citizens and with the latest where there are many deaths in succession shows serious reason for panic and concern.”We want to encourage authorities at the Health Ministry to work fast to give answers to our people, while we appeal to our people to keep calm and await results of the test.”All that we are hearing right now are speculations; so we ask people to maintain their peace,” he said.

Nigeria: Malaria Burden Adds Up to Adewole’s Meningitis Burden

opinionBy Adeola Akinremi

In November 2009, I sat near Isaac Adewole, in Dare-Salaam, Tanzania. I could tell of his brilliance and dedication to a cause he believed in based on how up-close I saw and interacted with him. He was elected the Chairman of African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) at that meeting unopposed to confirm his leadership prowess. We all roared in jubilation to approve that election.

At that time, he was a professor at the University of Ibadan and awaiting Vice Chancellor. He made it to become the Vice Chancellor of the premier university just about one year after. His academic brain and soundness have not been mixed with Nigeria’s perplexing politics.

But in November 2015, five years later, Adewole, became Nigeria’s Health Minister and his progress took a turn. He became a reactive man, and not proactive anymore. He must really be frustrated and hiding it.

Really, serving in Nigerian government can turn a smart man into a sluggish man. Government work around here can make a man full of vision to lose his sight.

Adewole must have had a torrid time as a sitting Health Minister whose tenure has had running battle with outbreak of diseases. With scores of people dying from diseases that are preventable and government using fire brigade approach for a rescue plan, I am fully convinced that Adewole is in a cage too difficult to exit from.

“I should start with global health security, as we might be aware, we have been dealing with series of outbreaks over the last one year. We started with Lassa, we moved on to cholera, there were pockets of measles and now we are dealing with meningitis,” he said without putting figures to the number of health-related deaths under him as a minister. But those deaths are now over a million in less than two years that he became a minister.

Honestly, I feel lethargic these days about Nigerian situation that I am hesitant to write. The bad shape that our country is will require not only a smart panel-beater to beat it into shape, but a man of hammer to hit the hell out of Nigeria.

This week, after reading the headline, ‘Nigeria begs U.S. to help fight Malaria’, my heart pumped. Sadly, the news story was attributed to the Health Minister, who equally acknowledged that the United States through its USAID/Presidential Malaria Initiative covering 11 states and the National Malaria Programme has invested substantial amount of about 490 million dollars in Nigeria.

The United Kingdom through its Department for International Development (DFID), the World Bank, the Global Fund, all separately put millions of dollars into malaria fight in Nigeria.

But despite the huge money invested in Nigeria already by the United States, including what the country itself continues to include in its annual budget, no less than 300,000 lives are lost to malaria annually. If you have been a victim of malaria, you will have no reason to dispute the figure. I think it could be more than that after seeing two close family members killed by malaria.

So my question is why is malaria-related death continues in Nigeria year after year despite the fact that it is preventable and with the huge amount of money invested in Nigeria by donor countries and nonprofits? The continuous mismanagement and embezzlement of fund by those entrusted with its administration is a big issue in malaria fight in Nigeria.

Interestingly, Nigerian administrators are so unkind to the poor. They continue to embezzle such money meant for rescue efforts like security fund, national emergency management fund, Presidential Initiative for the North East fund, malaria control fund and many others.

On its National Malaria Control Programme website (www.nmcp.gov.ng), you can get the picture that Nigeria is not interested in eradicating malaria the way the United States did in the 50s. At best, Nigeria wants to roll malaria back so that it can continue to roll forward. The content on the website is outdated and that shows the concern the Ministry of Health has for malaria eradication.

When in November 2016, the United States launched a whistle-blowing campaign on Nigeria for theft of its donated anti-malaria fund I was sad, knowing that I have lost people to malaria.

According to the Deputy Inspector General in charge of the American supported Malarial Control Programme in Africa in USAID, Jonathan Schofield, antimalarial products including treated bed nets and medicines carrying the USAID brand meant to be distributed free of charge, as part of the contribution of the American government to eradicate malaria in Nigeria were being diverted or faked by syndicates.

I remember that the U.S. government promised to give monetary reward for any useful information that would lead to the arrest of syndicates who hoard or fake the USAID funded malaria products in Nigeria. It was that bad. Why are we the enemies of our own progress?

It may surprise many why the United States continues to support Nigeria despite its frustrating experience. Here is the truth. The U.S. understands that America is not completely a safe haven with regards to malaria, though malaria ended in the U.S. in the 50s.

Americans are explorers and they go everywhere, and because they visit such malaria endemic countries as Nigeria there’s the probability of being infected.

Of course, with more immigrants and tourists arriving in the U.S. everyday, they will likely carry the fever with them and place the burden on America’s healthcare system.

For instance, in a report published on April 24, the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene claimed that between 2000 and 2014, about 22,000 people were admitted to U.S. hospitals with complications of malaria.

As the U.S. Consul General in Lagos, Francis John Bray, recently wrote that, “ridding the world of this burden will have a long-term transformative impact across the globe, saving millions of lives and generating trillions in additional economic output,” the burden is on Prof. Adewole to follow the money to save lives.

Nigeria: Malaria – Experts Advocate Good Hygiene

By Taiwo Adeniyi

Medical experts have said good personal and environmental hygiene is necessary in reducing the spread of malaria in Abuja.

A World Health Organisation certified level one expert malaria microscopist, Colonel Adeoye Abayomi (rtd), advocated for the continuous use of insecticides treated mosquito nets among measures for preventing malaria.

He said this during a malaria sensitisation and advocacy programme organised by a non-governmental organisation, Health Initiatives for Africa Safety and Stability (HIFASS), in Kado Kuchi.

At the event, held in collaboration with the Nigerian Ministry of Defence-Health Implementation Programme (NMOD-HIP) and Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN), treated mosquito nets were distributed to residents while malaria screening was also done.

“We can only reduce malaria through the cleanliness of our environment. Once we don’t get rid of the dirty areas we are not fighting malaria. Cover your windows to ensure that mosquitoes do not come in and sleep under treated mosquito nets,” he urged residents.

“Government should ensure the collection of refuse from where they are dumped,” he also said.

The Director-General, NMOD-HIP, Brig-Gen. Nurudeen Ayoola(rtd), called for more partnership with health care providers to reduce the spread of malaria.

Ayoola, who was represented by Commander Johnson Alabi, said more education and awareness would reduce the spread of malaria.

Nigeria

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Nigeria: Court Remands Doctor in Prison for Allegedly Raping Patient

An Upper Area Court sitting at Pankshin in Plateau on Friday remanded a medical doctor, Philemon Brazil, in prison for allegedly raping his patient.

Brazil, however, pleaded not guilty to the offence.

The Judge, Mr Joseph Chollom ordered the remand of Brazil in custody and adjourned the case to May 22 for further mention.

The Prosecutor, Sgt. Singbon Hosea, told court that the defendant committed the offence on April 25 at the home of his victim.

Hosea explained that the rape victim had a history of miscarriages and had been a patient of the doctor before the incident.

“But my lord, on that fateful day, April 25, when he visited the patient as usual, he went too far by forcing himself on her and ended up raping her.

“By that action, the accused has committed offences of rape and act of gross indecency, contrary to and punishable under Section 283 and 285 of the Penal Code.”

He said that after the arrest of the doctor, the police conducted HIV test on him and that the result was negative.

Hosea also told court that after the rape, woman suffered yet another miscarriage.

The prosecutor asked court to remand the accused in prison, pending completion of investigation on the matter

Nigeria

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Liberia: Nocal Donates U.S.$100K to Mental Health Research Institution

By Henry Karmo

Monrovia — The National Oil Company has presented a check of US$100,000 to the Liberia Center for Outcome Research in Mental Health (LICORMH) as support to government, in an effort to reduce drug addiction and substance use disorder in Liberia.

The money has been provided in partnership with TGS NOPEC’s an oil exploration company exploring Liberia for oil in commercial quantity.

The US$100K project will be implemented in Montserrado and Margibi Counties. According to NOCAL the objectives of the project is among many things to address the rising rates of addiction in Liberia through provider capacity development.

The project aims to train a cadre of addiction specialist in Liberia, build a multi-specialty center for mental health disorders and addiction that includes short-term crisis stabilization and treatment, and preventing the primary and secondary substance use disorders and addiction among adolescents and young adults.

The rationale of the project according Mr. Ambulah Mamey NOCAL’s Public education officer is to develop a short term plan to address issues of substance use disorders in Liberia.

He said currently there is no specialized center in Liberia to offer complete standardized treatment for persons with substance use disorders (PSUD).

Mr. Mamey believes Liberia’s weak law enforcement capacity, porous border control and proximity to major drugs transit routes contributes to an uptick in drug trafficking to and through Liberia.

“The number of addicts and people with substance use disorder in Liberia keep increasing.”

“There is very limited scientific and evidence based approach to treatment, care and reduction and prevention,” he said.

Mr. Mamey claims that repeated efforts by the Liberian National police to raid addicts and drugs user off the streets has failed to adequately address the problem because the approach is wrong.

“The lack of specialized center in Liberia that offers evidence-based standardized treatment for people with addiction problems has been another major challenge,” he added.

Liberia has one psychiatric hospital that provides treatment to persons with mental health and substance use disorder, and he believes that center has limited accommodation.

“The project is linked to the government of Liberia’s National Mental Health Policy and strategic plan which calls for the construction of wellness units in the 15 counties.

Under this project one wellness unit will be constructed and furnished,” he added.

The project provides short-term crisis stabilization and treatment for people with mental illness and will also train 10 addiction specialists to international standard, thus increasing the number of the internationally certified addiction specialist in country.

Drugs addicts (Zogos or Zogese) as they are commonly called occupy a unique place in Liberian history and in our contemporary national life.

The legacy of the civil war and the discrimination and stigma that they continue to face is a stark reminder of their lowly social and economic standing in Liberian society.

Clearly, numerous studies have continued to link mental health problems and the risk of suicide as well as alcohol and drug use disorders.

In the case of Zogos, it is fair to say that no such evidence exist of their mental illness, although their possible drug use and alcohol abuse and the linkages to mental health issues is inferred.

This does not excuse people in the general Liberian population who themselves are at risk of suicide given the pervasive use of illicit substances in the society, and the unresolved traumas from the war and other incidents of violence and communal deaths.

But here, the focus is on Zogos given that they are understudied and their lowly socioeconomic status, which explains the gross neglect that they face.

The death of Zogos and Zogese in Greater Monrovia and Harbel respectively, possibly as a result of suicide could mean that the society has a looming epidemic on its hands.

The time has come for the society to ask: Why are many Zogos dying from a possible suicidal fate?

Gambia: PS Ceesay Says Malaria Control Requires Joint Partnership

By Momodou Faal

Dawda Ceesay, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has stated that Malaria control requires joint partnership, as the task for Malaria control is colossal but it has to be tackled head on by the Gambian population.

PS Ceesay made this remark on Monday at the commemoration of World Malaria Day at Essau in the North Bank Region (NBR).

The event was organised by the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare through support from the Global Fund and partners.

PS Ceesay pointed out that The Gambia through the National Malaria Control Programme has put in place key strategies to combat Malaria in the country and among them includes the following interventions; free distribution of long lasting insecticide treated nets, to meet universal coverage, targets free access to reproductive and child health services, including prompt and effective treatment for Malaria, Indoor Residual spraying across the country and wide spread community education for behavioural change among others.

Ebrima K. Dampha, the governor of NBR, in his welcoming remarks, said Malaria is the leading cause of deaths for children under five years of age and World Health Organisation estimates that 3000 people die of Malaria everyday.

He pointed out that pregnant women and their unborn babies are particularly vulnerable to malaria, when a woman is pregnant, her immunity is reduced, making her more vulnerable to Malaria infection with dangerous consequences such as abortion, stillbirth, premature delivery and low birth weight.

He thanked the National Malaria Control Programme and their partners for hosting the event in his region.

Balla Kandeh, programme manager of the National Malaria Control Programme stated that World Malaria Day set a platform for intensive debate so that education and awareness levels on malaria are substantially and widely disseminated, noting that the day came as a result of the historic Abuja Summit where 44 African heads of State and Government representatives met in the year 2000 and made a declaration to halve burden of Malaria by 2015.

He added that the day provides countries the opportunity to soberly reflect on the efforts made on tracking the scorch of malaria, noting that it is a moment for stock taken and to renew political commitment, increase advocacy, communication and social mobilisation for Malaria control and prevention.

He thanked Global Fund, WHO, UNICEF and all the partners in the Roll Back Malaria for their support towards the fight against Malaria.

In another development EcoBank donated D52,000 to the NMCP as part of their contribution towards the fight against Malaria. Ebrima Jammeh presented the cheaque noted that the bank has made similar donations to 32 countries in Africa.

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Liberia: Death Toll From ‘Strange Disease’ in Sinoe Climbs to 10

The Chief Medical Officer of Liberia, Dr. Francis Kateh, has disclosed that another person has died from the ‘strange disease’ in Sinoe County, bringing to ten the number of deaths.

Dr. Kateh told ELBC Radio Thursday that another person who has contracted the disease has been hospitalized at the J.F Grant Hospital in the provincial capital Greenvile.

This, he said, brings to 18 the number of persons who have contracted the disease.

Dr. Kateh reiterated that initial tests conducted by the Liberia Institute of Bio-Medical Research in Charlesville, Margibi County have proved that the disease is not Ebola.

He, however, said another test will be performed while authorities and the Liberia National Police have launched an investigation to ascertain the origin of the deaths.

It can be recalled that on April 25, Sinoe County health authorities reported multiple unexplained deaths in five communities in Greenville, Sinoe County in southeastern Liberia from a ‘strange disease.’

The outbreak has instilled fear in Liberians as it reminds them of the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in 2014 that claimed an estimated 4,500 lives in Liberia and more than 10,600 lives in the hardest hit countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Dr. Kateh reiterated that the Ministry of Health has put in place the necessary systems, measures and capacity to contain any outbreak of infectious diseases in the country.

He said the ministry of health will keep the public updated on the situation as it unfolds.

Liberia

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Liberia: Liberian Leader Lauds Global Fund Support to Health Sector

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has lauded the Global Fund active support to the Liberian health sector through its malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS program.

She also praised the partnership between Liberia and the Global Fund that has brought about immense impact on the nation’s population.

President Sirleaf , however, called for increased support that would target rural health programs intended to enhance access healthcare.

The Liberian Chief Executive was speaking when she received in audience the Chief Executive Officer of Global Fund, Dr. Mark Dybul, at her office in Monrovia.

According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader thanked Dr. Dybul of Global Fund for his organization’s support to Liberia during a critical moment in our history.

Earlier, Dr. Dybul thanked President Sirleaf for the opportunity, her extraordinary support and strong voice for the work of Global Fund.

He described President Sirleaf as an advocate and champion of the aspirations of Global Fund and noted that the level collaboration in the health sector remains on course and praised Liberia for its robust Post-Ebola Resilient Healthcare Program.

Dybul acknowledged the need for support to the roads to health agenda of the government during discussions with the Ministry of Public Works officials aimed at addressing huge challenges that occasion the rainy season especially in rural parts of the country.

He expressed the need to make health services available to all sectors of the population in spite of the season.

Dr. Dybul assured that Global Fund was willing to partner with other actors, including the World Bank to critically respond to demanding infrastructure issues that will enable essential health, education and economic opportunities become accessible.

On Global Fund overall programme implementation towards its Liberia Program, Dr. Dybul noted that tremendous progress has and continues to be made in those critical facets of interventions.

Liberia

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Gambia: NMCP Commemorates World Malaria Day in Nbr

By Abdoullie Nyockeh

The National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, in partnership with other agencies such as NAS, Global Fund, WHO and Ecobank, celebrated World Malaria Day (WMD) at Essau in the North Bank Region on Tuesday. The theme was End malaria for good.

In remarks, NMCP manager, Balla Kandeh, said WMD sets a platform for intensive debate so that education on, and awareness of, malaria are substantially and widely disseminated.

In this process, the media and all other stakeholders including religious leaders and community-based organizations, must uphold their respective stakes, he said.

The day came as result of the historic Abuja Summit where 44 African Heads of States and Government Representatives met in 2000 and made declaration to halve the burden of malaria by 2015.

During that summit, 25th April was set aside and declared as Africa Malaria Day to be commemorated each year.

During the 60th session of the World Health Assembly in 2007, Africa Malaria Day was changed to World Malaria Day, giving it a global dimension on the magnitude of the malaria disease burden.

The day provides countries with the opportunity to soberly reflect on the efforts being made to tackle the scourge of malaria.

It also provides an opportunity to renew partnerships at the national and international level for malaria control.

It is an opportunity for countries to learn from each other’s experience and support each other’s efforts.

It’s a moment for Research and Academic institutions to flag their scientific advances on malaria to both experts and the general public.

It’s an opportunity for international partners, companies, and foundations to showcase their efforts and reflect on how to scale up what has being worked.

He said, “We cannot contain malaria by working in isolation as members of a specific sector, or in collaboration as members of a loose amalgamation. By working together, as members of a concerted and cohesive force, we can put a stop to the formidable challenge the disease poses and, “End malaria for good.”

For his part, Governor of the North Bank Region, Ebrima Dampha, said the theme was very fitting as Africa bears 90% of the malaria burden.

“The vast majority of malaria deaths occur in Africa, South of the Sahara where malaria presents major obstacles to social and economic development,” he added.

He continued that, “Although malaria is curable and preventable, the disease kills more than a million people each year, mainly young children. In Africa alone, where 90% of malaria deaths occur, malaria is the leading cause of death in children under five-years of age.”

The World Health Organization estimates that 3,000 people die of malaria every day.

Pregnant women and their unborn babies are particularly vulnerable to malaria.

When a woman is pregnant, her immunity is reduced, making her more vulnerable to the infection, which carries dangerous consequences such as stillbirth, premature delivery and low birth weight.

In The Gambia, malaria is the probable cause of 4% of infant deaths and 25% of deaths in children 1 to 4 years.

Although, the economic burden of malaria has not been fully determined, there is no doubt that the disease accounts for considerable loss days of productivity among the adult population, absenteeism from schools and workplaces and increased household expenditure on health.

In The Gambia, a robust partnership is in place, uniting all key actors and stakeholders in malaria control to respond to challenges that no organization or government can face alone.

Gambia: FAO and Partners Commit to Improve Gambia’s Nutritional Status

FAO and partners commit to harness the potentials of Sustainable Food Fortification to improve the nutritional status of The Gambian populace.

24th April, 2017, Banjul – The Gambian Government has joined forces with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in a bid to sustainably reduce the menace of malnutrition, and in particular micronutrient deficiencies which remain both a major public health and development problem for the country. Through funding from The European Union, FAO in close partnership with the Department of Agriculture (DoA), the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA), the Food Safety and Quality Authority of The Gambia (FSQA), the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Private Sector Food Industries as well as Importers, the Consumer Protection Group and other stakeholders is set to develop and implement the sustainable integrated food fortification initiative. The initiative – “Improve Food Security and Nutrition in The Gambia through Food Fortification” aims particularly to improve micronutrient nutrition and health outcomes of vulnerable women and children in The Gambia.

This is a public private partnership initiative that will work with food industries and farmers involved in the production of staple foods to embark on industrial scale fortification, as well as the cultivation of bio-fortified food crops to increase access to essential micronutrients by the population in The Gambia, especially women and children. . Vulnerable children 6-59 months and pregnant and lactating women in food insecure households in the North Bank and Central River North Regions will have increased access to and consume more micronutrient-rich foods through both industrially fortified food staples and bio-fortified food commodities.

The initiative has integrated nutrition education as a key strategy to strengthen nutrition outcomes. It is also designed to strengthen public and private sector capacities, build public private partnership and advance the reinforcement of regulatory systems on food fortification in The Gambia. The intervention will ensure at least 65% of the Gambian population have increased awareness and access to fortified staple foods high in essential micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron, zinc, folic acid and other Vitamin B nutrients.

Dr. Sablah Mawuli, FAO Lead Technical Officer for the project from the FAO Regional Office for Africa in Accra, Ghana concluded a week-long Technical Assistance mission to Banjul on 22nd April 2017 focusing on capacity needs assessment. He also engaged with the various stakeholders to clarify the technical roles of different public and private sector stakeholders, and guide in the development of the detailed project implementation plan.

The FAO Country Representative to The Gambia, Dr. Perpetua Katepa-Kalala, has praised the initiative noting that Food fortification presents an attractive potential area of investment to address micronutrient deficiencies in vulnerable girls, women and children, based on its potential to provide a relatively low-cost, affordable, scalable and immediate tool in response to the challenge of eliminating hidden hunger from The Gambia. She expressed gratitude to the EU and the different stakeholders on their commitment to improving nutrition outcomes in The Gambia. She is enthused about this initiative which will establish the enabling environment through mandatory legislation with standards on food fortification, production and distribution of fortified foods, social marketing with nutrition education under effective public private partnership Gambia Alliance on Food Fortification. Dr. Kalala explained that various capacity building and awareness raising campaigns would be organized on fortification and bio-fortification with mixed farming systems that promote dietary diversification, nutrition education and sustainable strategies for ensuring high coverage of fortified foods to address vitamin and mineral deficiencies in populations in The Gambia.

Potentials for food fortification

Deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals are widespread in The Gambia with substantial adverse effects on maternal and child health and development. The Gambia Demographic and Health Survey (DHS 2013) reported that 24.5% of children under five were stunted, 16% were underweight and 11.5% were wasted while 4.2% were severely wasted. Similarly, micronutrient deficiencies continue to be a public health challenge to The Gambia with Vitamin A deficiency in preschool children estimated at 54%, iron deficiency related anemia hovering around 72% in this age group and 60% in women of reproductive age.

Mr. Modou Cheyassin Phall, Executive Director, National Nutrition Agency NaNA explained that industrial scale food fortification and bio-fortification including bio-fortified orange flesh sweet potato, cassava and beans will play a critical role in sustainably combating micronutrient malnutrition in a manner easily accessible to food insecure communities. He noted that The Gambia Milling Corporation covering over 98% of the market with wheat flour has initiated voluntary fortification using industry standards which would now be aligned with harmonized Gambian standards to be developed on the broader ECOWAS Standard Harmonization Model (ECOSHAM). Mr. Phall also explained that the rice would also be fortified with essential micronutrient under the programme.

The Director General of the Food Safety and Quality Authority of The Gambia Ms. Zainab Jallow has also praised the intervention as timely noting that it will strengthen efforts aimed at enforcing standards and quality requirements on food fortification in The Gambia.

Source: FAO

Gambia

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