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THE Government of Guyana, through Ministry of Health, will soon sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Inter- American Development Bank (IDB), for a project which aims to ensure that young children get balanced diets.
It is part of that ministry's programme to put added emphasis on nutrition awareness this year, Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy told reporters Thursday.
Briefing the media in his Brickdam, Georgetown office, he said the aim is to make sure young children eat the right types of food and absorb the nutrients efficiently, ultimately sustaining good nutrition.
The funding will guarantee free food supplies to those in need but, unlike with Social Impact Amelioration Programme (SIMAP), the new scheme will focus on assuring the sustainability of good nutrition and providing micro nutrients.
The last will be delivered in little packets with such items as vitamins and iron which can be sprinkled on cooked foods at eating time.
Government Nutritionist Janice Archibald said a feature of the additives is that they are virtually tasteless and would not be found objectionable to anyone.
Ramsammy explained that coupons will actually be given to mothers at selected health centres countrywide and the recipients would go to specific shops within the different communities to purchase foodstuff but there will be a stipulation as to what could be bought with the vouchers, each with a $1,000 value.
He reiterated that the system is specifically intended to offer balanced meals to the targeted children and their parents will not be able to buy just anything they feel like with the vouchers.
"It is not money given to the family, it is money given to the child," the minister stressed, pointing out that those to benefit are between six and 24 months old.
"The reason, why this is so, is that we have recognised that the bulk of malnutrition in these children has to do not so much with not having food but choice of the right kind," Ramsammy stated.
He said Ministry of Health is also encouraging mothers to continue breastfeeding because, although a lot of them start out doing it, when they make the transition to pot foods, very often, it is not done appropriately.
"So, what we are trying to do, is encourage the use of appropriate transition foods for the six month-olds and we will now identify what are to be used for making porridges and so on."
Ramsammy said another aspect of the thrust is the inclusion of specially packaged micro nutrients for use by both the young child and its lactating mother.
He said nutrition programmes have already started in pilot schools such as Abrams Zuil on Essequibo Coast and St Joseph High School in Georgetown where they have been greeted with enthusiasm.
He said a related drive, on which the Health Ministry is working feverishly and enlisting the cooperation of schools, is the campaign against obesity.