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MMS effective, efficient than IFAS in fighting anemia in pregnancy – Nutrition Inter  

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By Akanji Alowolodu, Bauchi 

Antenatal multiple micronutrient supplementation has been proven to be more effective and efficient than iron and folic acid supplementation in improving birth outcomes and also shown similar benefits in preventing maternal anaemia and is safe for mothers and babies.

The assertion was made by the Country Director of Nutrition International Nigeria,  Dr. Osita Okonkwo, in an introductionary remarks presented at the formal Launch of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations (BMGF) funded multiple micronutrient supplementation (MMS) implementation research project in Bauchi, on Thursday, February 01, 2024.

He explained that in 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that implementation research be conducted in settings where the transition from iron and folic acid to multiple micronutrient supplementation is being considered, especially in low- and middle- income countries. 

Osita Okonkwo added that Nutrition International is already implementing micronutrient supplementation including Iron and Folic Acid in various countries around the world and is currently exploring this transition from IFAS to MMS in Pakistan and Nigeria. 

“So, what’s unique about our approach? Through this project, we are not just conducting research, we are developing and testing strategies based on human-centered design. We are tailoring our efforts to fit the needs and experiences of pregnant women in the local communities,” he added. 

According to him,”Our goal is to make the shift to multiple micronutrient supplementation as smooth as possible and optimize the uptake and adherence of this supplementation among pregnant women in the country.” 

The Country Director added that, “if we are going to achieve the Bauchi State Health Sector goal of a healthy and productive State by 2030, we need to work together. As an organization, we at Nutrition International are not just here as outsiders bringing solutions; we are here as partners and allies.”

He stressed that, “We are here to work with you. We are ready to listen to you. We are here so we can engage and make a meaningful difference in addressing malnutrition in Nigeria.” 

He stressed that, “Our collective presence here today reflects the shared commitment we all have toward the vision to improve health outcomes in Bauchi state and in Nigeria at large.” 

He added that, “Before we delve into the main reason for our gathering today, I’d like to set some context around our work globally, and more specifically here in Nigeria. Over the past 30 years, Nutrition International has evolved from a small organization headquartered in Canada to become a global leader in the fight against malnutrition.”

According to him,”Working in over 60 countries, we partner with national and local governments, donors and international development organizations to create high-impact, low-cost scalable solutions that make a sustainable difference in the lives of the people we serve – particularly women, adolescents, and children. Our mission is to transform the lives of one billion people, improving their nutritional status by 2030.”

He also explained that, “At Nutrition International, we serve as an expert ally to governments across the world, conducting cutting-edge research, influencing policy, improving delivery, and integrating nutrition into new platforms.” 

He also said that, “We share our research and knowledge products across sectors, governments, and the public to amplify the scope and influence of our work. We have produced world-leading technical guidance and have a vast library of learning resources, ranging from scientific articles and policy briefs to online tools, fact sheets, and more. Many of these resources are available for free on the Nutrition International website to any government or organization who wants to use them.”

According to him,”Since 2007, when we first began our work in Nigeria, we have formed partnerships with government agencies, including the Federal and State Ministries of Health, Budget and Planning, the National and State Primary Healthcare Development Agencies, development partners and other key stakeholders.” 

“Together, we collaborate to implement a range of lifesaving nutrition interventions. One of such initiatives, the multiple micronutrient supplementation implementation research project, is the focus of our gathering today,” he added.

He added that, “As a strategic partner in improving the health outcomes of Nigerians, Nutrition International focuses on providing technical assistance to the governments at various levels. Our efforts include delivering maternal nutrition programs such as iron and folic acid supplementation, nutrition counseling, and the promotion of early initiation of exclusive breastfeeding.”

He added that,”We work to improve the availability of sufficient, quality iron and folic acid for pregnant women in government health facilities. Additionally, we aim to increase the uptake of iron and folic acid among pregnant women and advocate for aligning national and state-level policies with international guidelines. We also strive to strengthen the capacity of health care workers and community-based health volunteers, ensuring they can provide quality care to pregnant women.”

According to him,”Our support extends to vitamin A supplementation for children under five during the biannual Maternal Newborn and Child Health Weeks. We lead the provision of a full supply of vitamin A capsules for children under five, not only in Nigeria but globally, with over 12 billion capsules of Vitamin A provided worldwide, in partnership with UNICEF.”

“Furthermore, we create demand for zinc and low-osmolarity oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhea in children under five and build the capacity of health workers to provide the required treatment,” he added.

He further said that, “Lastly, we are expanding knowledge and awareness about micronutrient supplementation and healthy eating, particularly focusing on vulnerable adolescent girls and adult women in the country.” 

According to him, “For this Three-year implementation research project in Nigeria, Nutrition International is working closely with the Federal government of Nigeria and government of Bauchi State. The research project is focused on transitioning pregnant women from iron and folic acid supplementation to multiple micronutrient supplementation during antenatal care.”

He explained that,”The project will not only introduce multiple micronutrient supplementation into routine antenatal care but will also identify solutions to optimize uptake among pregnant women to ensure improved pregnancy and birth outcome.” 

He concluded saying, “As we embark on this journey together, let us remember the common proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Together, hand in hand, we will go far and make a lasting impact on the health and nutrition landscape of Bauchi State and of Nigeria as a nation.”

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