Advocating for mandatory Folic Acid fortification in Uganda

Members of the Ugandan Parliament on the Committee of Gender, Labor and Social Development visited CURE Children's Hospital to learn more about Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus and what can be done to prevent these conditions. They received information from IF staff member Rebecca Nakitto Sagabo, CURE Hospital's Executive Director Derek Johnson, and nurse Florence Kalikwani. Sister Kalikwani emphasized the need to educate nurses about the importance of Folic Acid for all women of childbearing age. Dr. William Ssali and Louise Sserunjonji, both participating in a GAIN programme, presented a brief on fortification of food by adding vitamins and minerals. Dr. Ssali urged for the introduction of selected mandatory fortification. He also asked the members to increase awareness on fortification of food since they are the policy makers. Fortifying food and/or flour with Folic Acid is a proven way to help prevent neural tube defects such as Spina Bifida. A full report can be read here.
Eunice, who had surgery at CURE Children's Hospital of Uganda for Spina Bifida, and a CURE staff member (Photo courtesy Derek Johnson)

World Health Assembly adopts Birth Defects Resolution

Congenital disorders are a common condition. The WHO estimates that some 260.000 deaths worldwide (about 7% of all neonatal deaths) were caused by birth defects in 2004. The most common serious congenital disorders are congenital heart defects, neural tube defects and Down syndrome. To reduce the number of birth defects, the 63rd World Health Assembly has adopted a Resolution Birth Defects (WHA63.17). Member States are urged among others to develop expertise and to build capacity on the prevention of birth defects and care of children with birth defects; to raise awareness among all relevant stakeholders about the importance of birth defects as a cause of child morbidity and mortality; and to take all necessary measures to ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children and give priority to the child's well-being and support and facilitate families in their childcare and child-raising efforts. Read the WHO Report Birth Defects.
WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, during the 63rd World Health Assembly

Parliamentary question about the prevention of neural tube defects in Europe

On January 27th parliamentarians Dr. Antonyia Parvanova, Edite Estrela and Ria Oomen-Ruijten participated in the launch of the IF-Bayer Schering Pharma report "Act against Europe's most common birth defects" in the European Parliament. The objective of the report and event was to draw attention to the disappointing progress in reducing the number of pregnancies affected by neural tube defects (NTDs) in Europe and to reactivate the debate on the importance of adequate folate levels in women of childbearing age. Following this campaign, all three MEPs now have jointly posed a written question to the European Commission. Among others, they ask the Commission if it has taken note of the disappointing results and whether the Commission acknowledges and supports the need for adequate levels of folate for women of childbearing age during preconception and early pregnancy. They also inquire if the Commission is willing to start implementing awareness-raising campaigns to reduce NTDs. Read more on the EP website.
Dr. Antonyia Parvanova is one of the Members of the European Parliament who, together with Edite Estrela and Ria Oomen-Ruijten, actively strives to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in Europe

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