Since its creation in July 2017, the USAID-funded Ranfose Abitid Nitrisyon pou Fè Ogmante Sante Program (RANFOSE), implemented by Partners of the Americas, has sought to fight malnutrition in Haiti through food fortification. In cooperation with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, (GAIN), the program advocates for policy changes that have led to providing approximately 7-8.5 million Haitians with access to fortified foods.
Malnutrition is a major public health issue in Haiti. Health risks associated with the types of micronutrient deficiencies in the country include decreased cognitive and physical function, immune system issues, and physical birth defects, among others. In Haiti, 2 in 3 children, 6 months to 5 years old, and 1 in 2 women of reproductive age are anemic (caused by an iron deficiency). Deficiencies of Vitamin A and Zinc are especially prevalent among the population, causing 22% of children to experience stunted growth.
RANFOSE seeks to address nutrient deficiencies through food fortification. The food fortification approach consists of adding a small amount of micronutrients to a staple food such as vegetable oil, butter, flour, salt, or milk, which has shown to be one of the most effective ways to fight malnutrition. According to the Copenhagen Consensus, an investment of $331 million Haitian gourdes to fortify 95% of wheat flour has the ability of generating a return on investment of $7.9 billion Haitian gourdes per year, while also preventing 250,000 cases of anemia.
Although legislation on food fortification was passed in February 2017, specific guidance on how to follow the new legislation (known as implementing decrees) have not yet been published. Many local producers and importers are unaware of the appropriate levels of micronutrients to add to their products, which can pose health risks to consumers. Additionally, repercussions for failing to meet food fortification standards have not been laid out or enforced. The immediate publication of the implementing decrees will bring much needed regulation to the industry.
To address these challenges, RANFOSE is working closely with the Haitian Ministries of Commerce and Health to (1) publish these implementing decrees; (2) create a nationally standardized logo for fortified products; (3) establish quality control and quality assurance mechanisms; and (4) conduct ongoing analysis of imported and domestically produced fortified foods. RANFOSE is also working with relevant actors in food fortification to draft a strategic communications plan to educate consumers on the benefits of fortified products. In the coming months, the team will be engaging major importers of staple foods to increase the amount of fortified foods that meet national standards.
Although it is still too early to measure the impact of the program, Partners of the Americas expects that within the next five years micronutrient deficiencies in the country will be significantly reduced. Doing so would increase children’s and women’s health, which has shown to reduce poverty and lead to an increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).