New Delhi: With support from the Government of Canada, the Micronutrient Initiative (MI) will invest Canadian dollars 5.5 million (around Rs.28 crores) over the next five years to improve the nutritional status and health of over 17 million women, children and adolescent girls in Uttar Pradesh.
Launched as 'Ek Sahi Shuruat' (Hindi for "a correct start"), the initiative was inaugurated in Lucknow on December 4 by Member of Parliament Dimple Yadav, alongside MI President and CEO Joel Spicer and Deputy High Commissioner for Canada to India Jess Dutton.
Other prominent guests at the launch included: the Chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Juhi Singh; the Principal Secretary for Medical Health and Family Welfare, Arvind Kumar; the Additional Mission Director of the National Health Mission, Abhishek Prakash; the Additional Executive Director of SIFPSA, Rigzin Samphel; and the Director General of Family Welfare, Minu Sagar.
The 'Ek Sahi Shuruat' initiative is expected to deliver cutting-edge health and nutrition interventions through existing government programs, leveraging their distribution channels to achieve optimal reach and coverage.
"We believe this partnership will have a tremendous impact on the future of Uttar Pradesh, because when you break the cycle of malnutrition, you can break the cycle of poverty," said MI President and CEO Joel Spicer.
He further stated, "This will empower millions of women and children, paving the way for a new generation of healthy and productive people, which ultimately will contribute to building a stronger and more resilient society."
"Supporting the Micronutrient Initiative has been part of the Government of Canada's broader commitment to improve maternal, newborn and child health around the world. With good nutrition, children are more likely to stay in school, contribute to the needs of their family and community, and reach their full potential," said His Excellency Jess Dutton, Deputy High Commissioner for Canada to India.
Through 'Ek Sahi Shuruat', MI will:
Work with the Department of Health to increase healthcare workers' capacity to promote and scale-up newborn care practices such as: delayed cord clamping to increase blood flow to the baby, post-delivery breast feeding, the use of "kangaroo" or skin-to-skin mother care to keep premature and low weight babies warm, and other interventions. Mothers will also receive general counselling on child care and nutrition, and more specifically on iron and folic acid supplementation to prevent anemia. These interventions will be implemented across 18 districts and will benefit around 1.4 million newborns and their mothers.
Provide mothers with counselling on exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, on the timely introduction to complementary feeding, and on other nutritional and health issues. To ensure greater reach, mother care counselling will be delivered during 'Village Health and Nutrition Day', a monthly event organized by the government in villages across India to provide women and children with health-related information and training. Once fully deployed, this initiative is expected to improve the health of 650,000 infants and young children in 4 districts by ensuring that young children receive adequate nutrition through proper feeding practices.
Provide close to 15 million adolescent girls in 10 districts with iron and folic acid tablets on a weekly basis as well as nutrition counselling, working through existing programs led by the departments of health, education and women welfare. This initiative is intended to significantly curb anaemia among adolescent girls. Currently, nearly 50% of all women between the ages of 15 and 49 are anaemic in Uttar Pradesh. This intervention is expected to help increase adolescent girls' school performance, productivity and general well-being.
MI will also continue to support other key interventions, such as vitamin A supplementation for children under five through the 'Bal Swasthya Poshan Mah' (Hindi for "Child Health and Nutrition Month)") program, as well as training for health care workers on treating childhood diarrhoea with zinc and oral rehydration salts.