Minister of International Cooperation, Beverley Oda, has announced $75 million in new funding for the work of the Micronutrient Initiative to expand innovative nutrition programming and strengthen African health systems. The investment will be spread over five years and is expected to benefit 4 million pregnant women and 14 million children under the age of five – particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Micronutrient Initiative will use the funds to help provide pregnant women with iron supplements to prevent anaemia and folic acid to prevent birth defects, treat childhood diarrhoea with zinc supplements in combination with oral rehydration therapy, and administer vitamin A supplements to young children.
These interventions are proven methods of reducing maternal and child illness and deaths. However, millions of women and children remain unreached by such micronutrient outreach programs.
The new funds will be used not only to expand the reach of activity but, more significantly, to leverage micronutrient initiatives as entry points to improve the quality of antenatal care for mothers, revitalize weak diarrhoea treatment programs, and help transform ad-hoc, donor-dependent campaigns to reduce child mortality into sustainable, nationally-driven approaches. They will enable countries to take ownership and sustain these essential services in the future.
The funds will also be used to explore new models of treating severe acute malnutrition outside of health facilities through the use of ready-to-use, micronutrient-enriched therapeutic foods in households. The World Health Organization estimates that such community-based management of severe acute malnutrition for children with no medical complications could prevent the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children each year.
“This funding provides a phenomenal opportunity to strengthen health systems through nutrition in countries where access to care is limited and women, newborn babies and young children are at very high risk of illness and death,” said Venkatesh Mannar, President of the Micronutrient Initiative. “By focusing on improving guidelines, delivery of nutrition and other services, and frameworks for the integration of programs into national plans and budgets, these Canadian funds will build the capacity of African governments to deliver quality, community-wide health care on a sustained basis.”
The new funding is being provided within the scope of Canada´s Muskoka Initiative for Improving Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.