Fortifying Foods To Fight Malnutrition in Africa

Fortifying Foods To Fight Malnutrition in Africa

Plumpy’nut is frequently used by humanitarian agencies in emergency malnutrition situations. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
Plumpy’nut is frequently used by humanitarian agencies in emergency malnutrition situations. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps

Humanitarian agencies have long been using protein and energy bars filled with nutrients and vitamins when responding to food emergencies. Though these "ready-to-use foods" are seen everywhere on grocery shelves in the West, they're often viewed as lifesavers when food crises strike the developing world.

BBC News recently highlighted the efforts of two British doctors, Steve Collins and Alistair Hallam, who saw the great results these easily accessible foods can have on malnourished populations. The doctors have taken the idea of ready-to-use foods even further with their company, Valid Nutrition, which manufactures foods supplemented with important nutrients found in meat and vegetables — foods most Africans can’t afford. While majority of emergency food packets contain high sugar concentrations and supplements that help in emergency relief areas, Valid Nutrition's products contain nutrients that are important in a person's daily diet and are sold at an affordable price. The company has opened manufacturing factories in various African countries, creating jobs for locals and helping the economy by using local crops.

Instead of only using these foods during emergency relief situations, the doctors want to help treat severe acute malnutrition, where a person's weight for height measurement is 70 percent below the median range due to food shortage and/or illness, according to the World Health Organization.

"The idea is to target people suffering from a less acute, but more widespread form of malnutrition that affects a staggering two billion people worldwide," reports BBC News.

Fortification of food for the developing world is not a new idea. Other companies such as Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, a Swiss nonprofit, has programs in various developing countries providing food for the poor. In fact, Gain is trying to put more market pressure on firms to “develop new, affordable nutritious foods by convincing business it is missing a vast untapped market.”

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