M.G. Venkatesh Mannar, O.C., President of the Micronutrient Initiative (MI)
OTTAWA, February 6, 2013 On the occasion of his appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada, the Indo-Canadian Ottawa Business Chamber (ICOBC) will honour M.G. Venkatesh Mannar, O.C., President of the Micronutrient Initiative (MI) at a dinner at Canada´s National Arts Centre this evening. As part of Canada´s International Development Week, the ICOBC will recognize the important contribution Mannar has made to saving and improving lives around the world through his leadership of the Ottawa-based international development organization.
“We are very proud that a member of the Indo-Canadian community in Ottawa has been recognized with one of this country´s highest civilian honours,” says Chandra Arya, Chairperson of the IOCBC. “Working in his family business in India led him on a path that has changed the course of so many lives for the better. We applaud his dedication to such a worthy endeavour and congratulate him on his achievements.”
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals needed by the body in only small quantities but make a huge difference to survival and health. Around the world, billions of people live with vitamin and mineral deficiencies, putting them at greater risk of death and disabilities. The world´s poorest citizens, especially women and children, are the most vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies. When whole populations suffer from malnutrition, including a lack of critical vitamins and minerals, nations likewise cannot fulfill their potential.
“The Micronutrient Initiative has a well-earned reputation as a world-leading organization in the field of nutrition, and this is in no small part due to the dedication and vision of Venkatesh Mannar," said the Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation. "Mr. Mannar has changed the lives of millions of people and is a deserving addition to the Order of Canada. As the Initiative's first and largest donor, CIDA is proud to have played a role in fostering this success."
Mannar started his journey to saving and improving lives when he became interested in salt iodization; iodine is essential for brain development. As a sixth-generation salt processor in India, he became fascinated with the opportunities to end iodine deficiency disorders, the leading cause of preventable brain damage, by using salt as a vehicle for iodine. He helped establish salt iodization in more than 50 countries, making a huge contribution to what is largely considered to be one of the most successful public health campaigns of the 20th century. Today nearly 4 billion people have access to iodized salt.
“I´m so honoured to be recognized by my Indo-Canadian peers in Ottawa,” says Venkatesh Mannar. “When I started this work, I could never have imagined where it would take me. It started out as a matter of interest for me and a line of work that would allow me to use my knowledge of the salt industry to help others. Moving to Canada and joining the Micronutrient Initiative allowed me to engage in an incredible scope of work that has had an impact beyond what I could ever have initially realized.”
Mannar and his family chose Canada as their adopted home in 1990. In 1994, he was chosen to lead MI, which, at that time, had only 4 employees. Mannar spearheaded programs in vitamin A, which boosts children´s immune systems and saves their lives, salt iodization, and iron and folic acid, essential for the health of women and their babies. Under Mannar´s leadership, the organization has become an international and globally-respected organization, with more than 150 staff worldwide, supporting programs that reach approximately 500 million people in more than 70 countries each year. With support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and other generous donors, MI is now expanding its life-saving work into new areas that includes scaling up zinc for the treatment of diarrhoea, community-based maternal and newborn health, and multiple micronutrients for the health, growth and development of children.