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National Micronutrient Supplementation program ready to roll
THE Ministry of Health, in partnership with UNICEF and the Ministry of Education will roll out the National Micronutrient Supplementation Program in primary schools around the country from next week.
The program, which was launched in Suva last November, targets primary school children in the 6 years to 15 year age category.
The program will focus on de-worming children and then providing them with Iron tablets and Vitamin A tablets to supplement their growth.
The program will roll off in the different divisions from Monday, February 15.
The program will run through 4 phases and different target groups.
All school children in Fiji are being targeted with pre-schoolers and younger children also in the program target groupings.
The Ministry of Health is depending on the support of parents and guardians to ensure that the program is successful as children will only be given the tablets if their parents or guardians had consented to that.
Consent forms will be distributed to schools first and collected before our School Health teams distribute the tablets.
The Ministry of Education is an important partner in the exercise as their approval for students to be included is important.
Tablets that will be given out include:
- Albendazole. This will be used for de-worming. Tablets will be in 400mg and a student will receive one tablet per six months.
- Ferrous sulphate tablets in 200mg tablets. This will be given over a month in doses of 1 tablet per student per week.
- Multivitamin tablets. This will be given over a 10-day period as per one tablet per student per day.
The program targets to reach 52,000 students in the Central Division, 47,000 in the Western Division, 24,000 in the Northern Division and 8,000 in the Eastern Division.
What are micronutrients?
Vitamins and minerals are collectively known as micronutrients and are important for growth and development.
What causes micronutrient deficiencies?
There are many causes but poor diet (lacking in micronutrients) is the major cause. Micronutrient deficiencies such as Anemia and Vitamin A deficiency can negatively impact the health, growth and development of women and children.
What is anemia?
It occurs when there is lack of iron in the blood. Iron is needed to make hemoglobin which plays an important role in transporting oxygen in the body. People develop anemia when their diet lacks iron rich foods, such as meat, green vegetables and fruits. Anemia also happens when there is excessive bleeding or when there are hookworms in the intestine.
It is important to prevent anemia because iron deficiency causes irreversible brain damage in children and lowers work capacity.
Is micronutrient deficiency common in Fiji?
Surveys conducted in Fiji has shown that many people do not consume sufficient iron or vitamin A rich foods (meat, eggs, fish, green vegetables, legumes and fruits) to meet their daily requirements. The National Nutrition survey (2004) showed high rates of anemia among Fiji’s population: 79% in children aged 6-11months, 68% in children aged 12-23 months, 52% in children aged 24-35months, 30% in children aged 48-59months and 40% in women.
About this project
The Ministry of Health in collaboration with Ministry of Education, UNICEF and NFNC is conducting a program to reduce the rates of anemia in children. First, the children will be given a tablet known as Albendazole which may kill the worms and later children will receive iron (1 /wk/ for a month) and vitamin A (1 every 6 month) tablets. This will be repeated 4 times a year. This project will continue until 2014.
How this project will benefit your child?
The deworming tablet (Albendazole) can destroy the hookworms (if any) present in the small intestine so that they no longer suck your child’s blood. The iron tablet will replace the iron lost from the body and will also meet your child’s daily iron requirements. The vitamin A capsules will also ensure that your child meets their vitamin A requirements. Our aim is to reduce the rates of anaemia but we will still require your consent if you want your child treated at the schools.
What are the side effects?
The iron tablet may cause stomach cramps, constipation, heartburn, nausea, and vomiting the first few days as your child’s body adjusts. Iron can cause the stools to turn black in color which is due to unabsorbed iron and is not harmful. See a doctor if your child develops severe stomach pains, bluish-colored lips or fingernails.