HKI’s Shawn Baker and Douglas Steinberg are currently hosting NY Times Journalist, Nicholas Kristof, and the two winners of his “Win-A-Trip” contest – Saumya Dave, who studied writing at Columbia University and medicine at Medical College of Georgia, and Noreen Connolly, a teacher from Newark, NJ – as they travel throughout Senegal, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.
Shawn and Doug will be blogging throughout the week sharing their insights and experiences as they travel with Kristof uncovering stories in public health. The first post, written by Shawn, is below.
Today, I met up with Nick Kristof’s team for The New York Times’ “win-a-trip” contest who arrived late last night in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. Friday is the weekend here – so it’s a very slow day. We were, however, able to visit one of the major flour mills, “Moulins du Sahel” which provides 45% of the wheat flour market in the country. On May 1, this mill started fortifying their flour with essential micronutrients, the first in Mauritania. The commercial director, Cheikh Ould Teyah, took time out of his weekend to guide us – with great pride – through his plant and showed us where the fortification premix (containing iron, folic acid and zinc – three of the “big five” micronutrients) is added during the flour milling process. The bags of flour are emblazoned with the colorful and distinctive regional logo, “ENRICHI” (meaning “fortified” in French).
Below is a commercial (in French) HKI helped produce that promotes buying fortified foods, easily identifiable thanks to the Enrichi logo:
Mr. Teyah estimates that the flour for six large loaves of bread (“baguettes”) can be fortified for about 1 cent. In Mauritania, bread is the major staple, consumed by virtually every household every day. He beams when he talks about the impact his industry can have on the health and survival of his fellow citizens.
This project is an exciting extension of Helen Keller International’s regional work in food fortification, funded by the United States Agency for International Development, as part of their response to the global food price crisis that started in 2008. As prices of staple foods rise, poorer households sacrifice buying fruits, vegetables and animal source foods that are rich in essential vitamins and minerals – leading to increases in “hidden hunger”. Food fortification is one solution to this problem and once it’s set up, the private sector covers the recurrent costs so it’s also sustainable.