SEATTLE, Washington — The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that more than 2 billion people globally are suffering from micronutrient deficiency. Many humanitarian organizations have created solutions for large-scale fortification worldwide, yet rural and remote regions do not benefit from those processes. Sanku-Project Healthy Children (PHC) recognized the unmet needs in rural areas worldwide and created a small-scale fortification solution that introduces nutrition technology in rural flour mills.
In many developing countries, micronutrient deficiency is present in children from birth. WHO recognizes that iron deficiency is a common nutritional disorder that can develop into or worsen due to malaria, worm infection and make children more susceptible to diseases such as HIV. Micronutrient deficiency is an endless cycle because of the increased number of gaps in B12, vitamin A and folate, among others. Due to the absence of critical nutrients, children and families lack the physical strength and energy necessary to make it through the day, leading to the stunted development of the community.
In addition to micronutrient deficiency, there are additional health risks that can accompany the deficiency, such as infant mortality rates, TB and more. The WHO estimates 250 million children are vitamin A deficient, with 250,000 to 500,000 children becoming blind from the deficiency each year. About 50% of those children are expected to die due to blindness and nutrient deficiencies.
Sanku-Project Healthy Children
Felix Brooks-church and David Dodson co-founded Sanku in 2013. Felix was behind the engineering of the technology with a local African team in Tanzania. The nonprofit Sanku is not only based in Tanzania but in Massachusetts, U.S. as well. The co-founders understand the critical role that maize flour plays in rural communities. As such, a dosifier is a great way for the organization to fortify flour with micronutrients.
The effects of micronutrient deficiency aren’t just connected to diseases. It can damage children’s mental health and prevent them from reaching their full physical and educational potential. The organization estimates 200 million children can be mentally impaired due to nutrient deficiencies within their first 5 years, 1 million can die from malaria that could have been prevented and 16,000 can die from malnutrition. The impact of these avoidable deaths led to the nonprofit’s continuous efforts and developments to solve malnourishment with nutrition technology in rural flour mills.
The Sanku-PHC has used dosifier technology to start a small-scale fortification program. The dosifier adds essential nutrients during the flour milling process. Sanku has developed this innovative technology to give precise amounts of nutrients to each bag of flour at low costs globally, especially for remote areas where one flour mill may be feeding the whole community. Some of the micronutrients that they fortify flour with are zinc, folic acid, iron and B12. This innovative fortification process allows Sanku to use a cellular link to monitor the miller’s dosifier and be aware of repairs or restocks needed for each flour miller. The improvements to the dosifier to relay cellular updates grants the nonprofit the opportunity to reach a wider audience of rural communities at once.
Moreover, Sanku offsets the price of the dosifier by purchasing empty flour bags in bulk, which they later sell to millers at a reasonable market price. This allows Sanku to install fortification machines at no cost to the millers. Due to these factors, the organization can remain a nonprofit while introducing nutrition technology in rural flour mills.
Future Expectations and Global Support
The Project Healthy Children foundation has reached 2 million people with its fortified flour across East Africa. The fortification goal is to provide nutrition to at least 100 million people by 2025 worldwide. As of 2020, the Sanku team has installed dosifiers in five countries across East and Southern Africa. To achieve future expectations, Sanku has partnered with Vodafone for cellular links to its dosifiers and is supported by Giving, Give Well, Ashoka and Stanford University, among others. Sanku has also been recognized for its accomplishments by TIME Best Inventions 2019 and One Billion Meals fortified in 2019. These acclaims and support show how Sanku expects to grow its impact and strengthen its partnerships with other global organizations.