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Colombia: New Programme Aims to Prevent and Reduce Anemia among Children

Colombia: New Programme Aims to Prevent and Reduce Anemia among Children
The pilot programme for the prevention and reduction of anaemia will be implemented by the Ministry of Health and Social Prevention and the UN World Food Programme, as part of the strategy of Integral Attention to Early Childhood' Zero Hunger Forever”.

BOGOTA –In cooperation with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) the Colombian government has launched a prevention and reduction of anaemia programme with the aim of supporting the healthy development of Colombian children. The programme is part of the “Zero to Always” strategy, led by First Lady, Maria Clemencia Rodriguez de Santos.

Comprehensive care in the first years of life provides a solid foundation for growth, survival and development. Scientific evidence has shown that approximately 75 percent of neural connections are formed within the first 1000 days of life. Thus those who are vitamin and mineral deficient at this stage of life will suffer from stunted growth and development and as a result so does society.

The pilot phase of the programme will be implemented in the departments of Bolívar and La Guajira. The four main strategies are: institutional strengthening, capacity building through information, education and communication, social arrangements and home food fortification with micronutrient powders.

Through home food fortification, parents will add the micronutrient powder –which contains vitamins and minerals—and mix it in the children’s meals. No drastic changes in their diets will be required.

An Investment with Social and Economic Benefit

During the launch of the programme, Minister of Health and Social Protection, Alejandro Gaviria Uribe, warned that malnutrition, anaemia and deficiencies of iodine, vitamin A and zinc have a negative impact on the physical growth, cognitive development and health of children during infancy.

“Research has lead scientists to the conclusion that there is a possible association between anaemia and lower IQ scores.” said the Minister. “Our priority is to improve the health of our children through the promotion of this programme to prevent and reduce anaemia,” he stated.

The Ministry of Health and Social Protection aims to reduce the prevalence of anaemia in children through the programme. According to the National Survey on Nutritional Status (ENSIN 2010) 1 out of every 4 children under the age of 5 suffers from anaemia. This statistic doubles to 50% for infants aged 6-11 months

"We want to promotThe Ministry of Health and Social Protectione positive behavioral changes among the population by offering comprehensive early childhood care, deworming programmes and at home food fortification with micronutrient powder,” said the Minister of Health. “We want to strengthen families, institutions, and communities, through actions that will emphasize the importance of nutrition and diet in child development and the reduction of social inequalities throughout the country," he said.

The expansion of this programme to other parts of the country will depend on an evaluation of its success during the pilot phase. The results of this evaluation will be the main input for preparation and implementation of a programme to reduce micronutrient deficiencies nationwide among children.

According to Riaz Lodhi, WFP Deputy Director in Colombia, the programme is innovative because it involves and coordinates different government strategies, which are implemented through the health system to impact on the nutritional status of children. He referred to the WFP’s experiences in Peru, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic, where at home fortification with micronutrient powders has helped to prevent anemia and contribute to cognitive development of small children.

 Lodhi further stated that WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. On average, WFP reaches more than 90 million people with food assistance in 80 countries each year. He noted that the experiences and knowledge of this pilot programme in Colombia will be shared with other countries around the world.

Click here to view a photo gallery of the launching of the pilot programme for the prevention and reduction of anaemia in Colombia.

Zaida Márquez, PMA/Colombia, Tel +57-a-3469884, Mov. +57-3112087554