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How can we build new partnerships with the private sector to attract additional resources and leverage investments for the poorest children? 

I like the way this question is framed.

It’s not bogged down in the old rhetoric of “IF” we should partner with the private sector; it asks HOW.

If there’s anything to share from we’ve learned through the drive to scale up nutrition, is that we need all sectors to be engaged.

And the private sector is critical. In fact, it always has been.

I’ve been asked to focus on how private sector partnerships can be partners in improving product development and supply of nutrition commodities.

Here’s one concrete example, among many.

This is a vitamin A capsule and one of these little red capsules packs a powerful punch.

They’ve been an important part of child health services in countries around the world for almost two decades.

This little capsule represents ingenuity and innovation and would not have been possible without bringing together the best of many of the people and organizations represented here – private sector, NGO, governments, UN, researchers, academics and foundations.

20 years ago researchers compiled evidence to show that vitamin A supplements could reduce deaths in children over six months by 23 percent.

But there was no real commercial market to produce for.  So, we needed to create a market – and made a commitment to buy enough from manufacturers to produce the volume needed to make a difference.  Effectively an early Advance Market Commitment.

Working with manufacturers, we developed capsules that could survive transport to hot climates, had a shelf life of 3 years, and could be easily administered by front-line health workers. And each dose costs just 2 cents to make.

Today, you can find bottles of vitamin A capsules on the shelves of health posts and health centres from Ethiopia to Zimbabwe.

More than 80% of the global need is met. 8 billion capsules have been procured.  And last year alone working closely with national governments and with key partners like UNICEF, we reached more than 150 million children.

That’s one example from the past – and there have been many – that’s illustrative of how private sector partners can be partners in product development.

Here’s an example from right now.

Multiple micronutrient supplements, as an alternative to iron, could revitalize the fight against anaemia and low birth weight, particularly in countries where anaemia does not respond to iron only.

There are dozens of formulations in the market. Many do not comply with the formulation proposed by UNICEF and WHO.

And, even though most think they will be better, multis are more expensive than iron and folic acid, at least two or three times.

This has a direct impact with today’s theme: equity. Within countries, when multis are available, cost prohibits them from benefitting the poorest – those who might need them the most.

We need to engage private sector to help figure out a way to create a better formulation, and look at innovative models to drive down costs – perhaps an advance market commitment, and in addition beyond formulation – we need to engage private sector on how to package.

They are sold in bulk in the UNICEF catalogue, but better high-quality packaging is needed to improve the acceptability by pregnant women.

That’s why MI is convening, along with UNICEF and WHO, a meeting to advance this issue, in August.

Working with private sector, creating and shaping the market – these are all ways to increase access to critical commodities that will benefit the most vulnerable.

Thank you.

MI President and CEO, Joel Spicer, joined UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and other development leaders for a panel discussion to look at current equity investment gaps faced by children around the world. Joel spoke on the issue of private sector engagement. UNICEF hosted its event during the third International Finance for Development Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.