Overview of the Ethiopian National Food Consumption survey (NFCS): implications for fortification programs

Overview of the Ethiopian National Food Consumption survey (NFCS): implications for fortification programs

In 2011, the then Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute now EPHI conducted the Ethiopian National Food Consumption Survey (FCS) in response to a request by the Federal Ministry of Health to provide evidence for the National Food Fortification Program. The survey collected nationally and regionally representative cross-sectional FCS among 8424 households (HH) across nine regions and two city administrations. In most HH, one child 6-35 months and one woman 15-45 years were interviewed for selected socio-demographic characteristics, recent morbidity, anthropometry and single 24 hour dietary recall, including recipes, food sources and methods of preparation.

The objective of the survey was to collect individual level food consumption data at the national and regional level in order to:

  • identify commonly consumed foods in different geographical settings, thus potential food vehicles for fortification
  • determine the level of fortification possible, given current intakes of fortifiable foods, and potential impact on improving intakes of key micronutrients (iron, vitamin A, zinc), particularly in children and women of child bearing age

Some of the challenges encountered during the survey are:

  • financial delays during data collection
  • logistics
  • extreme weather conditions (high rainfall and extremely hot, up to 47°C in Afar)
  • difficulties with cleaning, checking and coding of dietary data
  • enlarging the existing Ethiopian food composition table to include key nutrients for more than 2000 items

The following are the results of the survey:

  • the proportion of children, women and men who reported consuming a food that contained any purchased wheat flour (thus, potentially fortifiable) in the previous 24 hours are 28 per cent of children and 20 per cent of women nationally, and 67 per cent of children, 52 per cent of women, 47 per cent of men living in urban areas
  • the consumption of oil was much higher, with 45 per cent and 50 per cent of children and women nationally respectively, and 69 per cent, 72 per cent and 77 per cent of children, women and men living in urban areas

The report suggests that evidence-based justification is required in order to identify appropriate food vehicle and fortify any products for the general population. Data are being used to develop the NFS and number of other diet-related strategies and programs. Hence, it provides an extensive resource to inform and guide nutrition policy, strategy, educational messages and program development for many coming years.