USAID-RACHA, with cooperation and support from the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) participated in the National Workshop to launch the five year program of iron fortification of fish and soy sauce and Vitamin A fortification of vegetable oil. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), GIZ (German International Development Agency) and the International Life Science Institute (ILSI) have also been partners in the effort to increase fortification in Cambodia. The Ministry of Planning's National Sub-Committee on Food Fortification (NSCFF) organized the workshop, which was held at the InterContinental Hotel in Phnom Penh on January 29, 2013. Over 300 participants from the government, private sector, media, and local and international NGO's were in attendance.
Micronutrient deficiencies are a major health issue in Cambodia. Of particular concern is Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA). These deficiencies result in 40% of children under five being physically stunted; which in turn affects the progress of mental development and causes other health issues. The Minister of Planning, His Excellency Chhay Than, made an impassioned speech at the Workshop lamenting the great loss the country experiences when young children suffer from malnutrition. Investing in nutrition now is investing in Cambodia's future, he remarked.
As Tara Milani, a USAID representative speaking at the workshop, stated, "Currently, there are few programs promoting food fortification, and the existing activities are small scale". The launching of this project marks the beginning of progress nationwide; an extensive intervention that will successfully address this major health issue. The five year project aims to reduce anemia and vitamin A deficiencies by 30% among women of childbearing age and children through the following activities: fortifying 80% of domestic fish and soy sauce production in 81 registered companies; achieving import controls to assure 67% imports are fortified; building producers' capacity and support of the program; gaining public and private commitments through policy and regulatory support; and integrating fortification into business development plans.
This new project is now being scaled up nationwide in both at rural and urban areas; aiming to fortify at least 42,000 metric tons/year of fish sauce and soy sauce, and 32,000 metric tons/year of vegetable oil. RACHA has been working for quite some time to influence government policy and regulation on iron fortification. In 2012, the Proclamation (Prakas) for the official label/logo to be used for iron fortified fish sauce and soy sauce products nationwide, as well as the Proclamation (Prakas) for the production and consumption of IFFS/SS were approved by the Senior Minister of Planning and Chairman of the National Council for Nutrition (NCC).
The social marketing strategy and advocacy plan have been finalized and implemented; the IEC materials for local and national campaign were reviewed; and a TV Spot on advantages of IFFS/SS for education campaign has been approved and broadcasted. A multi-sector collaboration is vital to the success of this new project in addressing anemia in the country. It is a major commitment, and USAID-RACHA, GAIN, ILSI and the NSCFF are pleased to announce its official launching.