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Fortified grain is new solution for malnutrition

From World Vision, by Lucy Murunga:


Students in Burundi line up to receive their lunch of fortified rice and beans. ©2012 Lucy Murunga/World Vision

“A new type of food is keeping children in school and combating exceptionally high levels of malnutrition and anemia in Burundi.

Ultra Rice®, developed by Path, looks identical to regular grains of rice. However, this tiny grain consists of rice flour fortified with micronutrients, including iron, vitamin A, zinc, and folic acid.

One grain of Ultra Rice is mixed with 100 grains of white rice, disguising the nutrients while efficiently boosting the nutrition of a bowl of rice.

In December 2011, World Vision, in partnership with the World Food Program, introduced lunches of Ultra Rice with rice and beans at 12 schools in Burundi’s Muyinga province.

As a result, many children are flocking to these schools in order to get their only meal of the day.

“School is more than just a learning center — it is a feeding center,” says Godfrey, a head teacher at Ngogomo elementary school.

Daniel, 9, doesn’t miss a day of school at Ngogomo, where he attends with three of his 10 siblings.

“I love the rice because it gives me the energy to stay and study in class. When I eat at school, even if there is no food back home, I can last until the next day,” he says.

Daniel’s mother has no money for food, medicines, or clothes. Like other schoolchildren here, he dreads weekends and holidays.

“I hated staying at home because there was no food to eat, and I felt a lot of pain in my stomach,” Daniel says. “I feel even worse for my little sister because she cannot stop crying.”

He eats half of his school meal and carries half home to share with his siblings, particularly his 2-year-old sister.

Daniel’s mother is relieved by the school feeding program.

“It helps that my children get rice and beans from school, then I can worry about less mouths to feed. Also I know that they will not starve,” Capitoline says.

Dr. Jean Hatsindimana, a nutrition expert for World Vision Burundi, is pleased with the impact of Ultra Rice on these children.

“If they did not have this, they would be looking malnourished and weak. They would not have the energy to stay in class and learn. If we stopped feeding the children with this nutritious rice, you will not find them in school,” he says.

For Daniel, school is food and a future.

“I come to school to learn so that one day I can become a teacher,” he says.”

Lucy Murunga is a World Vision communications officer based in Kenya.

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