Govt. moves to improve diet of babies, expectant mothers
…GPC to manufacture food additives
Kaieteur News
June 19, 2004

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A bold new initiative to improve the nutritional health of babies and pregnant women in Guyana is to come on stream shortly.

This project was facilitated through an agreement signed between the Ministry of Health and the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (GPC), yesterday.

The project is mainly funded by the IDB at a cost of $5billion with an additional $1million from the Guyana Government.

Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy noted yesterday, that the initiative was taken because studies have indicated that newborn babies, during the transition from breast milk to solid foods, are subjected to certain micro nutrient deficiencies.

He noted that the vitamins that are available in supermarkets and pharmacies are generic formulations that cannot address the specific deficiencies that are lacking in babies in Guyana.

“The micro deficiencies that are present in our Guyanese children cannot be addressed by taking a pill that you can purchase as a vitamin formulation. So what we have done in Guyana as part of this project is to design a formulation that will specifically address the micro nutrient deficiency of Guyanese children.”

This nutrient, which will come in the form of sprinkles and will be manufactured by the GPC, can be added to regular meals.

The initiative targets infants between the ages of six and 24 months.

Minister Ramsammy said that his Ministry is promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after which the infants can begin to use the new nutritional booster.

He added that it was also found that women of reproductive age suffered from a similar micro nutrient deficiency, which in the past has been dealt with by the Health Ministry.

The Ministry provided iron supplements at the anti-natal clinics. Pregnant mothers will now also receive the nutritional supplement.

Initially, the Ministry will distribute the nutrients at selected public anti-natal clinics free of cost, but the Minister disclosed plans for expanding the programme.

“I am negotiating with the GPC so that they can manufacture and make it available for purchase by those who are not a part of the programme, example those people in the private sector.”

Dr Ramsammy explained that a group of Canadian researchers, in collaboration with Heinz Manufacturing Company, developed a special sprinkle used in other parts of the world.

After discussion with the Ministry of Health, local researchers enhanced the product to make it more suitable to Guyanese children.

Heinz Manufacturing then entered into an agreement with the GPC to manufacture the sprinkles.

Project Coordinator, Dr Frank Anthony, noted that the project has three main components, the first of which will deal with nutrition and education. He said that the results of three well-known studies recently conducted found that there is a problem with anemia in children, especially those between the ages of six and 24 months.

“We also know that there is a problem with anemia in women during pregnancy. This causes lots of other implications. As a matter of fact we feel that one of the reasons of low birth weight is because of anemia in pregnancy.”

He noted that the sprinkles is new to Guyana but not new in terms of technology since it has been proven to be more effective than the regular tablets.

The other part of the programme has to do with providing coupons to children to purchase porridge.

Director of GPC, Bobby Ramroop, said that he is happy that his company was given the privilege to manufacture the nutrients.

He noted that GPC has been assisting the Health Ministry and the people of Guyana in the past. He spoke of the antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that went into production two years ago. He also disclosed that his company would soon begin to manufacture a new type of ARVs to treat tuberculosis patients.

The sprinkles, which are expected to come on the market in another month, will be distributed in half-gram sachets for babies and one-gram sachets for pregnant mothers.

Ramroop stressed that the sprinkles are fortified with iron, folic acid, vitamin C and zinc.