November 15, 2006 11:30 ET

CIDA: Canada Helps Provide Essential Nutrients for Afghan Children

QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 15, 2006) - International Cooperation Minister and Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages, Josee Verner, today announced that Canada will support efforts to help save tens of thousands of Afghan children from mental impairments by supplementing their diets with necessary nutrients. Minister Verner announced a $750,000 contribution to the Micronutrient Initiative, a Canada-based internationally-recognized not-for-profit organization dedicated to eliminating vitamin and mineral deficiencies worldwide. Minister Verner made the announcement in her address to a meeting here of the 52nd NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

"Millions of Afghan children suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies that hinder their development and potential," said Minister Verner. "Through simple, affordable strategies such as iodizing salt or fortifying foods with iron, we can make sure that children have access to the much-needed micronutrients that can dramatically increase their chances to lead healthy, productive lives."

Today's funding, which builds on existing successful programs, will provide:

- $500,000 over two years for salt iodization programs for some 10 million Afghans. Iodine deficiency--prevalent in Afghanistan--causes many infants to be born mentally impaired, and lessens the ability of children and youth to learn and work. CIDA's support for similar salt iodization programs worldwide has already saved seven million children from mental impairment. This initiative in Afghanistan is expected to prevent over 100,000 children from being born mentally impaired.

- $250,000 over one year to fortify flour with iron, thereby increasing the nutritious value of bread for some 2.5 million Afghans. This will reduce anemia due to iron deficiency, which affects 65% of Afghan children under five, and 61% of women aged 15 - 49. Anemia lessens children's ability to succeed in school and hinders their cognitive and physical development, and causes 2,600 maternal deaths per year in Afghanistan.

"We are pleased that the Canadian government continues to invest in cost-effective micronutrient programs that have the power to reach millions of children in the world's poorest countries," said Venkatesh Mannar, President of the Micronutrient Initiative. "In Afghanistan, where the prevalence of iodine deficiency is among the highest in the world, eliminating vitamin and mineral deficiencies is critical for people's health and well-being as well as to national economic development."

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of International Cooperation
    Pascale St-Pierre
    Press Secretary
    Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
    Media Relations Office
    819-953-6534 (electronic version of document)