Micronutrient deficiency adversely affects the health and economic and social development of individuals, communities, and nations. Given their high prevalence in developing regions, deficiencies in vitamin A, iron, and iodine have great public health significance.
Vitamin A deficiency weakens the immune system and, hence, increases the severity of infections. It is also the most common cause of blindness among children in developing countries. Iron deficiency anemia impairs immunity and reduces physical and mental capacities of populations. Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of mental and physical retardation in infants and children worldwide. As with vitamin A and iron, iodine deficiency increases the risk of death in newborns.
Programs that promote improved micronutrient status can alleviate the disability, morbidity, and mortality—particularly among young children and women—that are the consequences of micronutrient deficiency.
The MOST Mission
The MOST mission is to 1) maintain and enhance USAID's global leadership position in addressing micronutrient malnutrition, particularly vitamin A deficiency; 2) implement and evaluate state-of-the-art interventions to alleviate micronutrient deficiencies; and 3) provide technical guidance and coordination to other USAID projects with micronutrient-related components.
The MOST Strategy
The MOST strategy is built upon a framework of global and country-level results:
The global agenda focuses on 1) promoting a revised global agenda in collaboration with other organizations worldwide committed to reducing micronutrient malnutrition; 2) translating scientific knowledge into policy and program action; and 3) maximizing lessons learned through USAID’s extensive field program experience.
Country-level results address deficiencies in vitamin A, iron, and iodine: 1) vitamin A coverage of at least 80 percent of deficient children under 6 years of age; 2) moderate to severe anemia decreased by 30 percent in pregnant women and children 6–24 months of age; and 3) percentage of the population with symptoms of iodine deficiency reduced by 30 percent.
For micronutrient delivery at the country level, MOST’s role is to provide technical support to countries to guide the use of not only USAID funds, but also the full range of financial and human resources needed to eliminate micronutrient deficiencies from the list of public health problems.
In the design of country activities, MOST seeks the appropriate balance between supplementation, food fortification, and other food-based approaches to deliver micronutrients to at-risk populations in an effective, yet affordable way. Country activities are based upon analyses of a variety of relevant information:
—Prevalence and severity of micronutrient deficiencies
—Awareness of effects of micronutrient deficiencies
—Nutrition policies and programs
—Providers’ motivation, knowledge, and practices
—Food consumption data
—Production, distribution, and marketing of staple foods
—Estimates of the costs of alternative interventions
Key Areas of Activity
—Application of behavior change techniques to create demand for micronutrient programs and services
—Enhancement of the effectiveness and sustainability of supplementation programs
—Sound planning, implementation, and quality control of fortification programs
—Inclusion of other food-based approaches in programs
—Application of appropriate economic analysis to guide the evolution of country programs
—Use of monitoring and evaluation to improve program operations
—Development of public and private sector alliances to enhance the effectiveness of interventions
MOST focuses on the improvement of the micronutrient status of children under 6 years of age and women of childbearing age. Several intervention options available to address micronutrient deficiency, such as food fortification, will benefit not only those target groups, but also school-age children and adult males.
The MOST Team
The MOST team consists of five organizations led by the International Science and Technology Institute, Inc. (ISTI) as the primary contractor. ISTI's partners are the Academy for Educational Development, Helen Keller International, the International Food Policy Research Institute, and Johns Hopkins University.
In addition, five resource institutions have joined MOST for in-country implementation and technical tasks: CARE, International Executive Service Corps, Population Services International, Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, and Save the Children.
Twice a year, at designated times, the three programs distribute capsules to children aged six months to five years. Each program follows a campaign model based upon intensified social mobilization and service delivery over two to seven days. The twice-yearly events have created a cadre of field-tested personnel in the three countries, who are skilled at working with the local communities and at promoting their support and active participation. All three programs have been associated with National Immunization Days (NIDs), a WHO global program to eradicate polio. Since NIDs were held annually, however, they provided an opportunity for only one dose of vitamin A each year. Because children with vitamin A deficiency should receive a supplement at least twice a year (every four to six months), another mechanism was needed for the second dose. Relying exclusively upon facility-based distribution to deliver the second dose was not a viable option for several reasons, but in particular because healthfacility attendance for older children was not high enough to ensure adequate coverage in the one-to-five-year age group.
In Zambia, the first non-NIDs vitamin A supplementation program was launched in August 1999, and later renamed Child Health Week (CHW) to make the focus on the child more explicit. It was also felt that, instead of limiting activities to a vertical vitamin A supplementation program, the opportunity should be seized to deliver an integrated service that included not only vitamin A capsules but also other health services such as de-worming, health education, immunization, family planning, prenatal care, and growth monitoring. Districts were encouraged to provide an integrated package of services commensurate with their local capacity and need — as long as vitamin A supplementation remained the core activity during that week. In Zambia, the first NIDs campaign took place in 1997, and was a nationwide undertaking. The program was scaled down to about half the districts in recent years. Since 1999, the focus has shifted to priority districts, where communities have been at a constant risk of cross-border polio infections due to civil-war-related migrations from neighboring countries. This narrower focus is referred to in Zambia as sub-NIDS.
The first round of vitamin A supplementation in Ghana was integrated into NIDs in 1996. By 1999, a detailed plan was developed to implement a nationwide stand-alone supplementation program for the second round. In 2000, the Ministry of Health (MOH) carried out the first vitamin A standalone capsule distribution in the country’s ten regions. Since that date, the program has become a two- to three-day stand-alone event used to deliver a second dose of vitamin A to all children 6 to 59 months of age. Volunteers from the Ghana Education Service, along with personnel from other decentralized departments, assist with the supervision and capsule-distribution effort. Community-based volunteers are in direct contact with caregivers and children and also work very closely with health workers, assemblymen, chiefs, opinion leaders, gong-gong beaters, and other community leaders to mobilize beneficiaries, administer vitamin A, and maintain distribution records.
In contrast to Zambia and Ghana, Nepal followed a phased approach to program implementation. Integration of vitamin A into NIDs in Nepal was initiated in 1997,
four years after a supplementation program was established in 8 of the country’s 75 districts. The second distribution campaign has since been phased in at a rate of eight to ten districts per year. By 2001, the program covered all but three politically unstable districts. Under the program, high-dose vitamin A capsules are distributed to all children aged 6 to 59 months during a twoday event.
A monitoring team consisting of national, regional, and district supervisors carries out organized and random spot checks. Where necessary, vitamin A capsule administrators are assisted in performing their tasks. Capsule-distribution teams use all means of transportation available within the region and district, whether these be 4x4 vehicles, 2x4 pickups, motorcycles, or bicycles. MOH, district assemblies, decentralized departments, and local and international NGOs provide fuel and contribute to vehicle maintenance. At the end of each day, tally sheets are counted and summary sheets completed. Data are compiled by sub-district and district health management teams. After all figures are checked for accuracy, district coverage is calculated. District coverage data are sent to the regional nutrition officers and senior medical officers of public health, who compile regional coverage figures before sending them to the Nutrition Unit in Accra. Using regional figures, the Nutrition Unit estimates national coverage.
Monitoring teams consisting of national, provincial, and district staff carry out systematic or random observations, depending on what they are monitoring. Where necessary, vitamin A capsule administrators are assisted in performing their tasks. At the end of each day, tally sheets are counted, summary sheets completed, and data compiled. District figures are then checked for accuracy, after which district coverage is calculated and the results forwarded to NFNC.
serum retinol levels of <20 ug/dl,night-blindness prevalence,vitamin A supplementation coverage for children,subclinical vitamin A deficiency,
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