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January 19, 2010
Investing in Senegal's Future: A United Call To Action On Vitamin And Mineral Deficiencies

Minister of Health and Prevention in Senegal , Modou Diagne Fada, Head of CIDA in Senegal Ivan Roberts and Dr. Youkouidé Allarangar of the Organisation Modiale de la Santé at the launch.

The Ministry of Health and leading development agencies in Senegal launched a new report, ´Investing in the Future: A united call to action on vitamin and mineral deficiencies´ today at an event held at the Radisson BLU Hotel. The group committed to moving forward on the life-saving and life enhancing recommendations set out in the report and recognized the incredible benefits that an increased investment in micronutrient programming can bring.

Partners at the report launch included the Senegal Ministry of Health, the Micronutrient Initiative, UNICEF, World Health Organisation, Helen Keller International, USAID and the World Bank.

Due to the critical nature of the vitamin and mineral deficiencies, the launch of the report emphasizes and draws attention to the urgent need for action from all levels of government, health and development agencies and the Senegalese community to demonstrate their commitment to children and women in the country by increasing investment in life-saving vitamins and minerals.

"Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are having a profound effect on our country´s people, communities and the economy," said Banda Ndiaye, Country Director, Micronutrient Initiative, Senegal. "We can all take action, at the government, NGO, community and industry levels to implement proven solutions that cost just a few cents to save lives and help children grow healthy and strong. Today we are calling for commitment, coordination and planning for increased micronutrient programming – held together by strong and durable partnerships.”

Key partners in micronutrient interventions include national governments, non-governmental organizations, donors, aid agencies, foundations, industry, community leaders, and the agricultural sector. Research by leading health economists at the Copenhagen Consensus in May 2008, determined that every dollar spent on vitamin A and zinc supplementation programs creates benefits worth more than $17 and as such it was deemed the most cost effective intervention in any major areas of development.

“USAID is firmly engaged in improving nutrition in Senegal because as it is not only one of the most effective strategies for development, it is also an critical part of meeting four of the Millennium Development Goals. Micronutrients are essential for both individual health and the future of Senegal. Senegal imports around 70 per cent of its food and is particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. This leads to a reduced consumption of food rich in essential micronutrients and proteins.

USAID, as part of its commitment to ending hunger and achieving food security around the world, is engaged in guaranteeing food security here in Senegal so that its citizens have a secure and local source of food stuffs, food rich in micronutrients, and resources available to access these foods. One organization alone cannot supply all of the necessary experience and resources to achieve food security. For this reason, partnerships between donors, local communities, the Government of Senegal, non-governmental organizations and the private sector are of the utmost importance. These partnerships encourage efficiency and allow the development of dynamic synergies whereby each organization brings its best efforts to the table to overcome challenges and realize a common goal.”

This report is a call to action to all levels of government, NGOs, donors, aid agencies, foundations, industry, community leaders and the agricultural sector for increased investment, renewed commitment and expansion of existing vitamin and minerals supplementation programs.

Key recommendations for Senegal include:

  1. Effective implementation of resolution of the ECOWAS Health Ministers Assembly about vitamin A supplementation programs
  2. Sustaining the delivery of integrated health services through child survival days, including twice yearly vitamin A supplementation for children between six months and five years, and reaching out to those who are still unreached;
  3. Effective implementation of the national guidelines about vitamin A supplementation
  4. National scale up of zinc supplementation in diarrhea management and ensuring effective zinc supply;
  5. Reinforcing the enforcement of salt iodization regulations at all levels, including at the open weekly markets (Louma);
  6. Effective commitment from industries to comply with the mandatory food fortification regulations and to contribute for.
  7. Government to set tax exemption for the fortificant (premix) to reduce the impact of food fortification on the prices of the fortified foods
  8. Undertake operational research to improve the efficiency of iron supplementation to pregnant women
  9. Ensure that the poorest population have access fortified foods

We have the solutions and what is needed now is political will and commitment, along with sufficient resources and supplies to make sure that all children, especially those in Senegal´s poorest communities, have access to these life-saving micronutrients. Investment now will lead to huge returns in healthier, happier and much more productive populations in the future.