Exploring the prospects of fortified lentil in Bangladesh

Anaemia is a medical condition where a reduction of red cell mass in blood results in the reduction of iron concentration. According to the World Health Organization, 1.6 million people suffer from anaemia making it as one of the biggest health problem in the world. Preschool children and pregnant women are the most affected by anaemia, followed by non-pregnant women, school going children, and the elderly.

A significant population of Bangladesh suffer from anaemia notably iron deficiency anaemia. Inadequate iron intake is the number one cause for iron deficiency, which itself is a result of food insecurity and low consumption of iron-rich food. Thus,an intervention is needed to improve the daily dietary iron intake. Among the three types of nutritional supplements short term supplementation, medium term food fortification and long term food diversification,from them fortification is the most cost effective and less time consuming. Choosing the vehicle to ensurethe success of the fortification process is another concern; lentil can serve as the best fortification vehicle as it is consumed by a vast majority of the population and contains high amounts of iron.

The objective of this study was to examine the prospects of the iron fortified lentil in Bangladesh by finding out the food fortification policy/strategy of Bangladesh at the national level.

Study started on March 15th and continued up to December 31st 2015 .This was a qualitative study focusing on in-depth interviews with key stakeholders and suggested technical personnelwith prior experience in fortification, as well as document reviews and primary data elicited from interviews with the key informants.Key stakeholders from the Ministry of Industry,Ministryof Food, Ministry of Health,National Institute of Preventive and Social Medicine(NIPSOM), Institute of Public Health and Nutrition(IPHN), National Nutritional Service (NNS), International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), World Food Program (WFP), Micronutrient Initiative (MI), Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), UNICEF and some other organizations working in fortification related work were chosen for interview. Those interviews were transcribed and analysed. Then the data was analysed by coding and codes were segregated in different themes. From analysing the data, the study found that, there was no direct national level fortification strategy or policy but there was a national nutritional strategy which included fortification.

Bangladesh government has previously implemented three successful national level fortification strategies after successful trail which is still going one.But there were some other initiative for fortification also but which could not be continued like whet flower fortification. From those experience participants identified some barriers for the fortification in Bangladesh. These are, primarily price hikes, corruption, choosing inappropriate vehicle, lack of interest and initiative from the government and private sector; misconception about the fortification process also remains a challenge.

In Bangladesh, there are many opportunities to conduct fortifications due to the high rate of anaemia among the general population and the constant efforts of the government to improve the nutritional status of the people. To proceed with the fortification process, there needs to be significant evidence to establish facts to present to the various related ministries. Also fortification should be target population driven in spite of general people, like WFP are doing rice fortification for vulnerable development group (VGD). Overall, successful fortification requiresa good vehicle, good evidence and a focus group to elicit better results of the fortification.

University of Saskatchewan, Canada