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Kolkata, Oct. 21

THE Micronutrient Initiative, an international non-profit organisation, has called for the launch of a time-bound public-private civic partnership programme for controlling vitamin and mineral deficiencies (VMD) in India.

The programme is expected to identify priorities, interventions, delivery channels, investment and recurring costs.

The Micronutrient Initiative, which launched its India report on VMD, said that the impact of vitamin and mineral deficiency will not be substantially reduced unless sufficient political will and resources are put in place.

It is estimated that about Rs 405-585 crore (at an average of less than Rs 5 per person per year) needs to be set aside annually to effectively tackle the problem of micronutrient deficiencies in India.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr Venkatesh Mannar, President, The Micronutrient Initiative, said though India has come a long way in dealing with VMD and is one of the earliest countries to introduce a Vitamin A supplementation programme, the country still has a long way to go to wipe out such deficiencies altogether.

"More than two billion people worldwide suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies, of which 30 per cent of them live in India. Women and children are the most affected. Such deficiencies damage health, impair work capacity, impact reproduction, reduce intelligence and occupational choices. We estimate VMD will cost the Indian economy at least Rs 2,77,000 crore over the next 10 years in terms of lost human potential and health care costs," he said.

Currently, the public expenditure on health is less than one per cent of the GDP, estimated at about Rs 27,700 crore.

The report recommended strengthening and scaling up of existing interventions with additional interventions and enhanced delivery systems to control VMD in India.

It recommended free distribution of adequately iodised salt to Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) beneficiaries, a variety of multi-micronutrient supplements for pre-school children, pregnant mothers and adolescent girls, fortification of wheat flour with iron and folic acid, fortification of oils with vitamin A distributed to the poor through the PDS system.

This apart, promotion of micronutrient-rich food habits, regular de-worming of young children, promotion of good hygiene and sanitation, use of zinc as adjunct therapy for diarrhoea and adding zinc to fortified products wherever feasible is recommended.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated October 22, 2005)
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