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Global Alliance Fighting Malnutrition with 'Sprinkles'

Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition(GENEVA) -- When most people think of sprinkles, they think of cake and ice cream, and the word “healthy” doesn’t usually come to mind.

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) is trying to change that perception in some parts of the world with their new take on the treat: nutritionally fortified Sprinkles designed to fight malnutrition, a global issue impacting billions of people around the world.

GAIN’s Sprinkles aren’t your typical ice cream parlor, rainbow-colored fare.  These Sprinkles are sachets of powdered vitamins and minerals used to fortify foods prepared both in homes and by food vendors in Kenya.

And so far, the Sprinkles are working.  GAIN reports that its Kenya Sprinkles Distribution project, which began in 2007, has resulted in fewer nutritional deficiencies among children under five years of age.

And they’re not just for kids. The Sprinkles are ensuring adolescent girls and pregnant women receive essential nutrients. GAIN maintains it is a proven, cost-effective way to improve the health and well-being of millions of people and communities around the world.

“A study from GAIN and the U.S. Center for Disease Control found children consuming the multi-nutrient powders in rural areas of Kenya saw a reduction in iron deficiency, vitamin A deficiency and anemia,” of 14, 10 and 11 percent respectively, Adrianna Logalbo of GAIN told ABC News.

One key to the success of the Sprinkles project is that kids like them.

“The first thing she asks for is 'sprinkles'” said Loice Anteieno Ojoro, a Kenyan mother, speaking about her young daughter.  “My other child opens the cupboard, finds the sprinkles, brings it to me and asks me to add it.”

Kelin Auma Oluch, another Kenyan mother saw dramatic improvements to her child’s health after she started adding the supplement to the food she cooked.

“I saw a lot of changes -- I noticed my child’s appetite increased a lot.  My child that was weak now is strong,” she said.

“The use of micronutrient powder is one of the easy ways that we can combat malnutrition,” said Rosemary Otiende, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health in Kenya.

The multi-nutrient powders come in small packets of up to 15 essential vitamins and minerals at a cost of 35 cents per pack.  By sprinkling them on food, low-income families have a better chance of receiving the critical nutrients they need to thrive.

GAIN already has Sprinkles supplement programs running in Bangladesh and is about to launch in Ethiopia, where Sprinkles will be handed out to children under two years old and women of childbearing age.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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