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Micronutrient Initiative

Micronutrient Initiative

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The Micronutrient Initiative (MI) is an international not for profit agency based in Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 that works to eliminate vitamin and mineral deficiencies in developing countries. Although often only required by the body in very small amounts, vitamin and minerals - also known as micronutrients - support an array of critical biological functions including growth, immune function and eye function, as well as foetal development of the brain, the nervous system, and the skeletal system. Micronutrient deficiency
Micronutrient deficiency
A micronutrient deficiency is a physiological plant disorder which occurs when a micronutrient is deficient in the soil in which a plant grows. Micronutrients are distinguished from macronutrients by the relatively low quantities needed by the plant...

 is a form of malnutrition
Malnutrition is the condition that results from taking an unbalanced diet in which certain nutrients are lacking, in excess , or in the wrong proportions....

 and is a recognized health problem in many developing countries. Globally, more than two billion people live with vitamin and mineral deficiencies.


In 1990, leaders attending the World Summit for Children
World Summit for Children
The United Nations World Summit for Children was held in New York on 29-30 September 1990, bringing together the then-largest-ever gathering of heads of state and government to commit to a set of goals to improve the well-being of children worldwide by the year 2000. The summit was the brain-child...

 set the goal of virtually eliminating micronutrient deficiencies. In 1992, Micronutrient Initiative was established as a secretariat within the International Development Research Centre
International Development Research Centre
The International Development Research Centre is a Canadian Crown Corporation created by the Parliament of Canada that supports research in developing countries to promote growth and development...

 (IDRC), based in Ottawa, Canada, to support progress toward that goal. In 1993 IDRC recruited an executive director
Executive director
Executive director is a term sometimes applied to the chief executive officer or managing director of an organization, company, or corporation. It is widely used in North American non-profit organizations, though in recent decades many U.S. nonprofits have adopted the title "President/CEO"...

 for the secretariat and transferred 2–3 of its staff to the new organization. Venkatesh Mannar took over in June 1994 as the executive director. Until 2000, MI was governed by a steering committee composed of the Canadian International Development Agency
Canadian International Development Agency
The Canadian International Development Agency was formed in 1968 by the Canadian government. CIDA administers foreign aid programs in developing countries, and operates in partnership with other Canadian organizations in the public and private sectors as well as other international organizations...

 (CIDA), the International Development Research Centre
International Development Research Centre
The International Development Research Centre is a Canadian Crown Corporation created by the Parliament of Canada that supports research in developing countries to promote growth and development...

, UNICEF, The World Bank, and USAID. In 2000, MI became an independent not-for-profit organization.


The organization advocates for, and provides funding and technical assistance for salt iodisation
Iodised salt
Iodised salt is table salt mixed with a minute amount of various iodine-containing salts. The ingestion of iodide prevents iodine deficiency. Worldwide, iodine deficiency affects about two billion people and is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation. It also causes thyroid gland...

, the distribution of multi-micronutrient powders, the fortification of staple foods such as wheat flour with vitamin A
Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a vitamin that is needed by the retina of the eye in the form of a specific metabolite, the light-absorbing molecule retinal, that is necessary for both low-light and color vision...

, iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 and folic acid
Folic acid
Folic acid and folate , as well as pteroyl-L-glutamic acid, pteroyl-L-glutamate, and pteroylmonoglutamic acid are forms of the water-soluble vitamin B9...

, and dietary supplementation with vitamin A, iron, zinc
Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

and folic acid. Since 1997, with funding support from the Government of Canada, the Micronutrient Initiative has provided more than five billion doses of vitamin A for use by UNICEF and national governments.

MI is credited with playing a pioneering role in engaging corporations and trade associations at both the global and national level in partnerships to improve micronutrient nutrition.


The staff of MI includes scientists, nutritionists, and policy and development experts. In addition to its headquarters in Ottawa, the organization has offices in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal and Pakistan.


External links