Market-Based Fortification Solution To Reduce Maternal Mortality

Market-Based Fortification Solution To Reduce Maternal Mortality

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Last Update: August 20, 2013

Fortify works with the world’s leading food companies to iron-fortify everyday diets of the world’s least nourished. The goal is to end the world's most common, widespread nutritional disorder, iron deficiency anemia(IDA)using the power of the free market, rather than relying on unsustainable aid.

Founded: 2012 Type: hybrid

The Problem

Iron deficiency anemia affects 2 billion people, and kills at least 1 million each year. Women of childbearing age suffer the most. IDA causes more maternal deaths than HIV/AIDs and malaria combined. In developing regions, diets lack foods capable of replenishing the iron stores depleted by menstruation and childbirth. Also, WHO claims that IDA may be responsible for up to a 20% reduction in a nation's productivity.

The Solution

No existing nutritional strategies have reduced IDA yet. Most food fortification programs focus on Vitamin A for children. Fortify focuses on iron, and foods that are part of the family meal, reaching women and girls who are the most neglected. Our first food target is processed tomatoes because the natural presence of ascorbic acid increases iron absorption, and lycopene boosts immunity. Tomato pastes and sauces are the most widely consumed processed foods in Sub-Saharan Africa, and are even available in rural markets. In Nigeria alone, each person, on average, consumes at least 3 servings of tomato-based products per week. Experts agree the best way of restoring iron is through routinely-consumed low doses of bioavailable iron.


In most developing countries, children are born to mothers who are micronutrient malnourished. Family meals are nutrient-poor, and infrequent. As girls grow into women, often more than 50% of them are stunted, which also means under-sized pelvises. Women are generally marginalized, which means they are the last to eat, and forced to do the most. Many become pregnant as teenagers. When a malnourished girl experiences labor, her pelvis is often too small for the baby, and she tears and hemorrhages. Her body has not stored enough iron to begin making new red blood cells. Hemorrhaging leads to death in many cases, because there are few hospitals, and even fewer opportunities for blood transfusions.


Existing interventions have had little impact on the UN's MDG #5. Maternal mortality rates remain high, and fixing health care and infrastructure will take many years and government involvement. Reaching all girls and women with specialty products delivered by humanitarian groups is unrealistic and unsustainable. However, adding iron, this simple element that is critical to building blood, to simple foods already being consumed by millions, is very possible and can significantly reduce deaths, once implemented. Fortification works, as proven by the iodization of salt. The cost of adding iron will cost less than a penny per can. In countries, like Nigeria, where processed tomatoes are frequently consumed by most of the population, if we even only reached 1/4 of the population, we could positively impact the lives of 40 million people, and help stop mothers from bleeding to death.

Budget: $100,000 - $250,000

Sustainability Plan

Fortify seeks funding to support relationship-building activities with governments and global food companies, as well as to coordinate research, testing and evaluation. Future work should be supported primarily by corporate partners. Ultimately, if we are successful in convincing global companies that food fortification can be a valuable part of growing their businesses in emerging and developing markets, the need for our existence will cease.


This problem is just starting to be addressed by organizations like the Flour Fortification Initiative. However, this work is not market-driven, but rather organized by NGOs targeting governments. Flour also is not the best vehicle for iron delivery, because when consumed with grains, absorption is reduced. Fortified flour does not reach rural areas, where up to 70% of the affected population lives. Limited commercial efforts exist. Nestle has recently added iron to bouillon distributed in Africa, and the government of China is working in cooperation with GAIN to add iron to soy sauce.

Founding Story

As a master's student at the Univ. of Chicago's Harris School, I conducted research analyzing data on variables affecting maternal health outcomes around the world, and existing nutritional interventions. I discovered existing strategies had little to no impact, and that more women were dying from causes related to iron deficiency anemia than any other cause or disease. I personally experienced and survived hemorrhaging in the 30th week of my third pregnancy, and was determined to find solutions to help poor women in developing countries become nutritionally stronger and survive the perils of childbirth. We have an expert team of advisors in global health, medicine, and international development who eagerly support our work.

Team Members



Nutrients for All: Vitality for People and the Planet

Nutrients For All

Where do you ensure the availability of nutrients?

Full nourishment foods, Human wellness and vitality.

If you had greater capacity, which additional sectors would you like your solution to target - either through expansion, partnership, or thought exchange?

Nutrient-rich farming.

How specifically would this added capacity help you improve the quality, efficiency, or sustainability of your existing product or service?

Approximately 100 words left (800 characters).
Ideally, Fortify would foster partnerships between the governments/Ministers of Agriculture in targeted countries and food companies and processors interested in building the farm-to-market value chain. Nigeria grows more tomatoes than any other country in Africa, yet there is no in-country tomato processing facility, and farmers are not able to sell much of their produce.

Growth Tracker

Stage: Milestone 1 of 1
Heinz Company
Date of Completion 10/01/13
In Progress
Receive preliminary commitment to further investigate fortification potential of everyday foods
Milestone 1
Heinz Company
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Nancy Martin hasn't posted any impact reports yet.

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Nancy Martin profile img
Tue, 07/23/2013 - 06:54

It's time that "public-private partnership" becomes more than terminology. We need do more than talk about it, and identify specific ways in which to engage corporations to take on the work that they can do more effectively that many NGOs and government agencies. Most not-for-profits work tirelessly towards commendable goals, but without the financial muscle and distribution abilities of the private sector, their success and impact will be limited