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UNICEF is extending its strong partnership with DSM and Sight and Life to increase access to micronutrient powders for children, and now multiple micronutrient supplements for mothers, to ensure healthy lives for the next generation.

6-month-old Falmata is being screened for malnutrition at a UNICEF-supported health center in Dalori IDP camp, Maiduguri, Borno State. Photo credit to UNICEF Nigeria/2016/Esiebo

Royal DSM, a leading science company in nutrition, the UN children’s rights agency UNICEF, and Swiss-based nutrition think tank Sight and Life have announced they are extending their cross-sector partnership focusing on delivering better nutrition to at-risk children and mothers in Nigeria until the end of 2021. The partners are bound by their shared vision to improve health and end all forms of malnutrition, by increasing the availability and accessibility of micronutrient powders (MNP) for older infants and young children, and multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS) for women during pregnancy – improving nutritional wellbeing of the next generation.

Genesis of the partnership

UNICEF first began working with DSM in 2013 to support MNP programs in Madagascar and Nigeria. In 2015, the partnership supported the Nigerian Government in further introducing MNP pilot programmes in three states, reaching over 11,000 children from six to 23 months. The partnership was formalised and extended to Sight and Life in 2017 and has successfully endorsed MNP as a critical nutrition intervention, and by 2019, it had established a national MNP programme reaching one million children. The extended agreement is scaling our impact by aiming to reach two million children in 15 Nigerian states and integrating MMS for women across Nigeria as a new opportunity.

“In Nigeria, about 37% of children are stunted, which translates to almost 14 million children. This has a far-reaching consequence for child survival and development. Working with DSM allows us to leverage the power of business and markets to make a difference for these children. Since 2013, our partnership with DSM has contributed to reaching over one million children with vital nutrients that has helped save many lives. UNICEF and DSM will support the Nigerian Government to ensure even more children have access to vital nutrients needed for improved nutrition and optimum growth.”
– Simeon Nanama, Chief Nutrition of UNICEF Nigeria

Building a strong future with nutrition

As the partners scale up production and implementation of MNP and MMS, they are focusing on quality assurance and controls to guarantee the best standards, and are advocating for new regulatory policy around MMS in Nigeria. Their medium-term goal is to spur similar action in other countries where malnutrition is a critical concern.

“Fighting malnutrition requires local knowledge and extensive access which is why partnerships are so vital. Combining UNICEF’s reach with Sight and Life’s proven expertise and our science-based solutions will help get critical micronutrients to two million more vulnerable children in Nigeria next year. We are capable of so much more when we act together.”
– Geraldine Matchett, Co-CEO and CFO of DSM

A mother giving her baby complementary feeding at her workplace at Primary Health Board, Akure.
UNICEF Nigeria/2016/Esiebo

In parallel, the partnership is aiming to create an enabling environment for MMS. After decades of scientific research, MMS was recently endorsed by WHO as a cost-effective solution to improve the nutrition of mothers, and thereby the development of new-born children, especially in countries with a high prevalence of nutritional deficiencies. Specifically, scientific evidence shows MMS can effectively reduce maternal anaemia and the risk of children being born underweight, too small, and too soon.

“Good nutrition sets off a ripple effect. It can dismantle inequity, poverty, and poor health and drive progress at every stage in life. It supports physical and cognitive development, helps prevent a number of medical conditions and saves lives. MMS can help to improve maternal nutrition, thereby ensuring the health of children and breaking the perpetual succession of malnutrition.”
– Dr. Klaus Kraemer, Managing Director of Sight and Life

UNICEF, DSM and Sight and Life each bring unique but complementary competencies to this effort. The UN children’s rights agency is present in over 190 countries and leverages its strong development expertise to help improve the health and nutrition of the most marginalised children. DSM has differentiated itself in the health and nutrition sector as both an innovative research leader and a reliable producer of safe, high-quality vitamins and micronutrients. Sight and Life, finally, has garnered the best minds on nutrition to deliver cutting-edge solutions and address the world’s toughest challenges in malnutrition.

“Global and local food systems must ensure that all children, without exception, have access to nutritious, safe, affordable and sustainable foods. … Support in one sector supports success in all.”
– Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF

Besides their complementary expertise, the partners share a common vision and aim: working to end malnutrition. They are guided in their extended collaboration by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2 and 3, aiming to end hunger and promote good health, respectively. The cross-sectoral partnership between an expert UN body, a humanitarian think tank and a global, purpose-driven company serves as a leading example of SDG 17 – “Partnership for the Goals” – and how bridging between public and private can enable a complete, large-scale, catalytic impact.