Market-Based Fortification Solution To Reduce Maternal Mortality

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Market-Based Fortification Solution To Reduce Maternal Mortality

Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

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, using the power of the free market, rather than relying on unsustainable aid.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

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. No existing nutritional strategies have reduced IDA yet, nor impacted the UN's MDG #5. Maternal mortality rates remain high, fixing health care and infrastructure will take many years, and reaching all girls and women with specialty products delivered by humanitarian groups is unrealistic and unsustainable.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Most food fortification programs focus on Vitamin A and D 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 with the rapid rise in urbanization, consumption of processed tomatoes is already increasing two-fold over fresh tomatoes. Fortify is working to convince global food processors that the one-time expense of making relatively minor changes to processing tomatoes will help them build market share in the countries that offer the greatest growth potential during the next decade: the emerging and developing markets. The reality is that global food companies can build global market share while delivering essential micronutrients in products.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In most developing countries, children are born to mothers who are micronutrient malnourished. Family meals are nutrient-poor, and infrequent, and in many cultures, women and girls are the last to eat, and have the least to eat. As girls grow into women, often more than 50% of them are stunted, which also means under-sized pelvises. 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, without the ability to replenish her blood supply, may to death in many cases, because there are few hospitals, and even fewer opportunities for blood transfusions.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Adding iron, the element critical to building blood, to simple foods already being consumed by millions, is very possible and can significantly reduce deaths. Fortification works, as proven by the success of iodized salt. The cost of adding iron will cost less than a penny per can. In countries like Nigeria, where processed tomatoes are consumed by most of the population (8.5 billion cans of tomato paste consumed/year), if we even only reached 1/4 of the population, we could impact the lives of 40 million people, and help stop mothers from bleeding to death. Each Nigerian, on average, consumes at least 3 servings of tomato-based products per week. Experts agree the best way of restoring iron is through a consistent, low-dose of iron routinely consumed (10-15 mg/serving) since the body only absorbs small amounts of iron at a time. Routine low doses can build iron stores to normal levels in just a few months.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Fortify seeks funding to: 1) support relationship-building and advocacy with global food companies 2) to coordinate research, testing and evaluation between companies, agencies, and governments potentially interested in fortification mandates; and 3) to work with corporate partners on education and marketing. Once successful in "passing the baton" of food fortification responsibly to global companies, the need for our existence may cease.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

This problem is just starting to be addressed by organizations like the Flour Fortification Initiative, but 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. Nestle has recently added iron to bouillon distributed in Africa, the government of China is working in cooperation with GAIN to add iron to soy sauce, and Changemaker Sundar Serendipity Foundation is adding iron and other nutrients to salt in India. However, other than Nestle, fortification initiatives are not market-driven, and may be difficult to sustain, scale, and reach broad populations, especially in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where the needs are the greatest.

Founding Story

As a master's student at the University of Chicago's Harris School, I conducted independent research analyzing data on variables affecting maternal health outcomes in the developing 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 (especially hemorrhaging) than any other cause or disease. As a mother of three healthy children, I personally experienced and survived hemorrhaging in the 30th week of my third pregnancy. I was determined to find solutions to help poor women in developing countries become nutritionally stronger and survive the perils of childbirth.
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Organization Country

United States, IL, Chicago, Dupage County

Country where this project is creating social impact
Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

Before incorporating as Fortify, the project began as team "FeMME" at the University of Chicago. We were awarded $15,000 in the Social New Venture Competition run by the Booth School of Business and Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship (June 2012)

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.


Nancy Martin's picture

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