Micronutrient Forum 5th Global Conference

In November 2020, the Micronutrient Forum held its 5th Global Conference, ‘Connected 2020’. Over two weeks, stakeholders from governments, donors, the food industry, agriculture and international development came together to discuss solutions to micronutrient malnutrition. Due to COVID-19, this year’s conference was a virtual event, with live sessions, on-demand webinars, poster presentations, and a host of resources from the global nutrition community.

 

Two of the 2FAS-supported country projects, and one of the Research Lots, were featured in three presentations. Arthur Pagiwa from the World Food Programme presented on the project in Sudan, which has brought together stakeholders from different sectors to support a common fortification goal. The project is building the capacity of government and producers to implement mandatory fortification of wheat flour and vegetable oil; assisting the improvement of national salt iodization; supporting market-based delivery of micronutrient powder; and introducing the cultivation of iron- and zinc-enriched sorghum and millet. Emily Faerber from Emory University gave a poster presentation on the efficacy of including a ‘Healthy Baby Toolkit’ as part of the project in Ethiopia. This project seeks to improve food security and nutrition by promoting the production and consumption of vitamin A-enriched orange-fleshed sweet potato. Valerie Greffeuille, from the French National Institute for Sustainable Development, presented the results from the first stage of 2FAS Research Lot 1  – Integrated Strategies on Micronutrient Deficiency Reduction. Lot 1 seeks to identify how to combine different strategies to combat micronutrient deficiencies without risking over consumption.

 

2FAS Senior Expert Ibrahim (Abe) Parvanta gave a presentation on the types of population- and industry-related data that are needed to guide effective food fortification policy and programme implementation. The focus of his presentation was on industrial fortification, and its effectiveness in reducing micronutrient malnutrition and associated healthcare and national development costs. Abe noted that the COVID-19 pandemic is an important reason to advocate for food fortification with key micronutrients, to help strengthen populations’ immune systems in the long term.

 

In a panel discussion, 2FAS Team Leader Dora Panagides also spoke about food fortification in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. She specified three main areas where focus needs to be retained and renewed: support and scale up of ongoing programmes; investment in countries without fortification policies and initiatives; and strengthened data collection to inform future programming and policy. Other members of the panel were Penjani Mkambula from GAIN (also a member of the 2FAS team), Dipika Matthias from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Rizwan Yusufali from Technoserve; the moderator was Ruth Petersen from the CDC.

 

Despite the fact that we were all in our home offices this year, the Micronutrient Forum was a wonderful, participatory event, and a great opportunity to engage with nutrition actors from all over the world and across different sectors. Many congratulations to all involved, and fingers crossed, we can be together for the next one. In the meantime, the resources are online for everyone to enjoy for the next 12 months.

Dora Panagides and Penjani Mkambula spoke at the 10-11:30 event on 11 November