Millions of Egyptians suffer from poor nutrition, including birth defects and miscarriages. Now, a food fortification program is making an edible difference. One family's newest member is living proof.
Challenge: Millions of Egyptians suffer the effects of poor nutrition, including preventable miscarriages and birth defects.
Solution: Add micronutrients to baladi bread, the staple food of poor Egyptians.
Can their daily bread save lives?
Luxor. The Nile.
Sombol Mohamed makes his living ferrying tourists across the Nile. He shares a home on its banks with his mother and sister and wife, Mona, who is nine months pregnant. Her first pregnancy ended badly.
First I was pregnant with twins, but I went to the doctor and he told me: "They've been dead in your belly for 21 days." So I had to have an operation to get them out.
OM SOMBOL [Mother]
My daughter Dalal had two miscarriages because she didn't take folic acid. Twice! Once at three months, and the other at two months, I swear.
DR. AZZA GOHAR [Egypt National Nutrition Institute]
Iron is one of the vital elements that a mother needs during her pregnancy. So, if she's iron deficient or folic acid deficient, that's a problem. It compromises her health and her child's. The baladi bread program is a national program. We add iron and folic acid to the baladi bread flour. The population is 80 million and they depend on the bread. Even if somebody cannot afford anything else, he can afford to buy bread.
El Etihad Flour Mill, Luxor
MOHAMED ABDOBASHA [Mill Manager]
We began the iron fortification program last year, meaning 2008. We mix the iron and folic acid in the machine, and the computer regulates how much nutrient is released into the flour.
Every day the Luxor mill ships 125 tons of fortified flour. Most of it goes to neighborhood bakeries, where it is transformed overnight into baladi bread for the people.
NOUBY ABDELHAMEED [Bakery Owner]
My share is seven sacks of flour a day. We come in to mix the yeast around 11 at night. Half a pack of yeast and half a sack of flour. We mix them in the kneading machine, and we leave them till morning. Around seven o'clock in the morning, the bakers come in to make the dough and bake the bread.
Citizens can buy 20 loaves for one Egyptian pound. There are always more customers than loaves.
Twenty million Egyptians now have the benefit of iron and folic acid in their daily diets, including pregnant and soon-to-be pregnant women.
DR. AHMED ABDEL MONTELB [Obstetrician]
With folic acid we're protecting coming generations; we're protecting an entire generation, a new generation with fewer birth defects and miscarriages.
Two weeks later, Sombol's wife, Mona, gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
I'm so happy with my son, my first, which is a special love. Hopefully, God will give me many more.
This is my first grandchild and I'm so happy with him. I'll get him gold tokens that ward off the evil eye, and I'll make him so happy.
Living Proof: Real Lives. Real Progress.
Food fortification is one of the world's most cost-effective public health tools. Global partners support food fortification in over 25 countries, aiming ultimately to reach 1 billion people.
Living Proof: Real Lives. Real Progress. www.one.org/livingproof