Scientific experts from nine countries gathered to share their views and experience around iron interventions in Africa. Inappropriate eating habits, infections and parasitism are responsible for significant prevalence of iron deficiency, but reliable and country-comparable prevalence estimates are lacking: improvements in biomarkers and cut-offs values adapted to context of use are needed. Benefits of iron interventions on growth and development are indisputable and outweigh risks, which exist in populations with a high infectious burden. Indeed, pathogen growth may increase with enhanced available iron, calling for caution and preventive measures where malaria or other infections are prevalent. Most African countries programmatically fortify flour and supplement pregnant women, while iron deficiency in young children is rather addressed at individual level. Coverage and efficacy could improve through increased access for target populations, raised awareness and lower cost. More bioavailable iron forms, helping to decrease iron dose, or prebiotics, which both may lower risk of infections are attractive opportunities for Africa. Fortifying specific food products could be a relevant route, adapted to local context and needs of population groups while providing education and training. More globally, partnerships involving various stakeholders are encouraged, that could tackle all aspects of the issue.
- Benefit-risk ratio
- Iron deficiency