Address by MI President and CEO Joel Spicer at launch of Ek Sahi Shuruat in India

MI commits to improve the lives of over 17 million women, adolescent girls and children in Uttar Pradesh, India, through Ek Sahi Shuraut, a major MI initiative.

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Honorable Member of Parliament Madam Dimple Yadav, Principal Secretary, Medical Health and Family Welfare,  Mr. Aravind Kumar, Additional Managing Director, National Health Mission, Mr. Abhishek Prakash,  Your Excellency Jess Dutton, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Namaste.

I’m greatly honoured to be here today to officially launch a major MI initiative aiming at improving the lives of over 17 million women, adolescent girls, and children in Uttar Pradesh.

We are calling it Ek Sahi Shuruat – which translates as  ‘a correct start’ in Englishbecause we want these children, adolescent girls and mothers to get a better chance at reaching their full potential, from the very beginning, and throughout their lifecycle.

They represent some of the most vulnerable members of society, and investing in their health is our moral duty, as we endeavour to make the world a better place for everyone.

As a father of three young children myself ― two boys and a girl ― I want my children to experience all that life has to offer. I want them to achieve their full potential. For that to happen, a number of conditions need to be in place, and being healthy is one of them.

We need all children to be healthy ― no matter where they live ― if we are serious about raising the world out of poverty. And we need their mothers to be healthy, too.

We know for a fact healthier women are more productive members of society.

And coincidentally, if they are in good health, it will have a direct impact on their children, boys and girls, and lead to a brighter future for all of them.

We also know we need to give more attention to the health and nutrition of adolescent girls.

Improved education performance, increased productivity at work, energy to fully engage with family, friends, community – these are just some of the results seen when we can ensure proper nutrition for a young girl.

Ek Sahi Shuruat has been designed with all this in mind.

MI has been promoting better health through better nutrition in India since 1998, and in Uttar Pradesh for the last 6 years.

In 2014 alone, here in Uttar Pradesh, we supported a multitude of nutrition and health interventions.

With our support, 80% of all children in the state ― a total of 18.5 million children ― received  two doses of vitamin A to boost their immune systems.

We trained 67,000 Accredited Social Health Activists and Anganwadi Workers in 12 districts to use zinc and oral rehydration salts to treat childhood diarrhoea.

Our work in Gujarat with salt producers, who mainly supply to Uttar Pradesh, has helped more people in UP obtain and consume adequately iodized salt. Recent studies have shown that the number of people who consume adequately iodized salt has nearly doubled in the state since 2010, to reach 80% of the population.

This means that millions of newborns protected from permanent mental impairment due to iodine deficiency.

We will continue to do this, and more.

On behalf of MI, I’m proud to commit to an investment of up to $20 million – or about 1 billion rupees-  to improve the nutritional status and health of women, children and adolescent girls over a 5 year period in India ― almost $6 million or 280 million rupees, of which will be invested here in Uttar Pradesh through Ek Sahi Shuruat.

What is particularly interesting about Ek Sahi Shuruat is how it proposes to bundle together health and nutrition interventions that may not be a usual combination, to make sure there are no more missed opportunities for impact.

MI will collaborate with the state government to deliver cutting-edge innovations, using existing platforms to increase our impact ― and make a real, long-term difference in the lives of millions of women, adolescent girls and children who need our support to have a better future.

Going forward, we will work closely with the departments of Health, Education and Women Welfare through their existing programs, to reach 15 million in- and out-of-school adolescent girls in 10 districts, with iron and folic acid supplementation and nutrition counselling to reduce anaemia.

We will help build the capacity of Uttar Pradesh’s healthcare system to provide better services to 1.4 million newborns and their mothers.

And, we will use village Health and Nutrition Days organized by the state government as an opportunity to make sure over half a million infants and young children have access to better nutrition.

For example, we will help provide counselling and support to their mothers on exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, so their newborns can reap all the health and nutritional benefits of receiving breastmilk.

And these are only a few examples.

The Sustainable Development Goals highlight nutrition as a path to raising people out of poverty. What will it take to get there?  It will take political will, leadership, resources and new collaborations with “unusual suspects”.

This initiative brings all that, and gives Uttar Pradesh an opportunity to show leadership in nutrition.  To other states in India, to other countries in the region, and to the world.

The state government, like us, understands that women are the engines of development and, when women are being held back because of poor nutrition, they are being robbed of the very power they need to be fully active agents of change in their families and in their communities.

The government also knows  that children are the future innovators, leaders, activists, and artists, and that we need them as much as they need all of us – because without their full potential, we all lose.

Our government partners are committed to working hand-in-hand with us to make sure there are no more missed opportunities. I thank them for their support and collaboration.

Dhanyavaad. Thank you.

Allow me the opportunity to express our profound gratitude to the Government of Canada for its support.

For decades, Canada has been a lighthouse for nutrition: it has shown the way.  MI is proud to have contributed to Canada’s leadership through our work around the world, and we look forward to shining an even brighter light on nutrition and lead others to do the same.

I want to acknowledge the presence here today of the Deputy High Commissioner of Canada to India, His Excellency Mr. Jess Dutton. Thank you, sir, for joining us.

Last but not least, I’d like to thank the team at the Micronutrient Initiative India country office for all the work they put into organizing this event.

And thank you all for being here today to celebrate with us.

This experience in Uttar Pradesh is expected to pave the way for similar interventions beyond Uttar Pradesh and beyond India.

Over the next five years, we will be working with governments and local organizations around the world to reach millions more women, adolescent girls and children.

May Ek Sahi Shuruat become a great example we can show the rest of the world and from which we can all learn.

Thank you.