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WHA76 Side Event – Accelerating Efforts for Preventing Micronutrient Deficiencies and their Consequences through Safe and Effective Food Fortification

11 May 2023

The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision-making body, where the Member States come together to vote. It usually takes place in May and is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States. The assembly focuses on a specific health-related agenda prepared by the Executive Board (WHO EB). The seventy-sixth World Health Assembly (WHA76) will be held from 21-30 May 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The WHO recognises the important role of nutrition in improving public health. For the prevention of folic acid deficiency and reducing the prevalence of Neural Tube Defects including Spina Bifida, decades of scientific evidence has demonstrated that the fortification of staple foods with folic acid is the most effective policy. 

Earlier this year on February 3 the WHO EB  decided to recommend to the WHA76 the adoption of the following draft resolution ‘Accelerating efforts for preventing micronutrient deficiencies and their consequences, including spina bifida and other neural tube defects, through safe and effective food fortification’.

The International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (IF) celebrates this important milestone towards reducing the prevalence of Spina Bifida and other Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) worldwide. IF has been at the forefront of the advocacy for large scale food fortification of staple foods with folic acid since evidence emerged regarding the important role folic acid (Vitamin B9) can have in reducing risks of NTDs (see IF’s Statement here). An advocacy that has been achieved through partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders, including successful projects through private-public-civil initiatives, for example Smarter Futures.

The leadership of IF in the campaign towards this draft WHA resolution has been essential for the global SBH community. It is extremely important to the SBH community to not only advance fortification policies but to achieve this goal through a rights based perspective on advocacy. The active involvement of representative organisations including IF in international initiatives, such as this proposed draft resolution, is an important step in mainstreaming disability rights as established by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in all initiatives from the local to the international level.

To celebrate and raise awareness of this important draft resolution the government of Colombia is sponsoring alongside numerous co-sponsoring WHO Member States a side event to the WHA together with IF and a broad coalition of partners from public and civil society. The side event is scheduled to take place on the 23rd of May at 6pm in Geneva.

This draft resolution transforms the way the world tackles the global challenges of malnutrition and prevention. Now is the time that we, as a society, take the burden and responsibility for reducing the risks of NTDs in pregnancy away from women and the shame and stigma that this approach results in. 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  1. Check out who will represent your country at the World Health Assembly this year. See also the list of the Members of the WHO EB here 
  2. Contact your WHA delegation representative to ask for support on the WHA resolution. For this you can use the IF template letter for inspiration (see here)
  3. Share information about the WHA resolution on food fortification with your WHA delegation representative. See below a list of resources to use
  4. Request that your WHA representative shares a formal statement of support for the WHA draft resolution ‘Accelerating efforts for preventing micronutrient deficiencies and their consequences, including spina bifida and other neural tube defects, through safe and effective food fortification’. The WHA representative can do this by either (i) taking the floor during the WHA76 when the resolution is being discussed or (ii) by an official written statement of support. Please note, statements will share actions that have been and will be taken to strengthen national food fortification programs. The resolution calls on Member States and WHO to report on their progress every two years. Committing to specific actions now helps to ensure that Member States will have progress to report when these opportunities arise.
  5. Invite: Also on behalf of the Governments of Colombia, Ecuador and Malaysia, IF invites your national WHA Member State delegations to join us at this celebratory occasion at the WHA76 side event Fortify the Future: A WHA side event supporting the proposed resolution on May 23 at 6.30PM. Delegates and Others can register to attend here 
  6. Be in touch with the IF team for any questions you may have at info@ifglobal.org

 

RESOURCES