Malawi will be among few countries in Africa that have fortified sugar as the battle against malnutrition and stunted growth gathers pace.
Principal Secretary responsible for Nutrition, HIV and Aids in the Office of the President and Cabinet Edith Mkawa was speaking in an interview in Lilongwe on Tuesday after briefing journalists on sugar fortification with vitamin A.
Said Mkawa: â€œCurrently, in Malawi, 22 percent of children under five, 8.5 percent of school age children, 1.6 percent of non-pregnant women and 0.2 percent of men have vitamin A deficiency. This is a very serious health concern because vitamin A deficiency has adverse impact on child development.â€
She said government with other partners, including Unicef, USAid, Irish Aid, the Project Health Child and Illovo Sugar Company decided to roll out sugar fortification programme with vitamin A to be in tandem with other countries such as Zambia, Nigeria and Kenya.
Irish Ambassador Liz Higgins said her country, through Unicef, has pumped in about K1.5 billion (about $5 million) to fund the restructuring of Illovo Sugar factories.
â€œThere was a great need to buy new equipment and vitamin A fortificants for the first two years of the project and that is why we had to pump in the money. As donors, we are eager to help Malawi solve this problem because vitamin A deficiency has been a public health concern for many years,â€ she said.
Unicef deputy representative Jane Muita said there are no health risks associated with consuming fortified sugar as the vitamin A used is a food grade product suitable for human consumption.