Today we are putting up the first in a series of pieces on the charity Project Healthy Children. The key work on this has been done by Sally Murray, Nikki Naylor and Ellie McDanielle at the London School of Economics. The next piece we will release next week will be on the merits of nutrient fortification in general. We are currently working with the charity to collect and write up further information. A summary of the full report is below:
At Giving What We Can, we evaluate the cost effectiveness of charities fighting poverty in the developing world. Currently, our health team are investigating the charity Project Healthy Children (PHC), a not-for-profit organisation that works to help governments in low income countries to implement food fortification programmes. We were interested to see whether PHC would be a charity we could recommend, as they had come to our attention for operating a very low cost strategy for effectively increasing micronutrient consumption in the developing world.
This report is a summary of our findings at this stage. For those who don't have time to read the whole thing, the bottom lines are:
Project Healthy Children aims to ensure that foods in the developing world are fortified with necessary micronutrients through partnerships with government and industry. They want fortification to happen earlier, and be more comprehensive than otherwise.
They appear to have a sensible model for pursuing this goal. First they research what nutrients are needed and foods consumed, then they design and implement regulations that require all staple foods to be fortified. The cost of this fortification is borne by industry or consumers and is very small.
They consult for free with affected industry to ensure they do properly fortify food. They also promote monitoring and evaluation to ensure that foods being bought by people are indeed fortified as intended.
The cost of providing all of this advice to a country is in the order of $300,000-650,000, which could lead to an annual cost per person in the country of under one cent.
However, we currently have various doubts. We worry that recipient countries may have pursued fortification even in the absence of PHC. We wonder why they have not already managed to raise the relatively small amounts of money they require from other donors. We would like their monitoring to include tests for deficiencies in the population both before and after the fortification process goes ahead. We will push ahead with our research to resolve these remaining doubts.