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Christina Dendys
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Christina Dendys
2011-12-06 9:07
Thank you. I'm nervous too.
Chair and members of the standing committee, thanks for this opportunity to present some thoughts on this study on behalf of the Micronutrient Initiative. Before I get into some of the meat of the study, I want to say a few words about MI.
As a mom, I know it matters that my son has enough food to eat, but it also matters what he eats. Micronutrients like vitamin A, zinc, iodine, and iron are vital components of good nutrition and human health, yet billions on the planet—that's right, billions—do not get enough of the vitamins and minerals they need to survive and thrive.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies affect a full third of the global population, diminishing their health and preventing too many from fulfilling their full potential. So for almost 20 years, the Canadian-based Micronutrient Initiative has focused on developing and delivering low-cost and high-impact solutions to address vitamin and mineral deficiencies among the world's poorest populations, and really has grown into a global leader in the field. Our reach and impact are impressive. Last year alone, we reached as many as 500 million people with our programs.
This is all thanks to significant leadership and generous support from the Government of Canada through the Canadian International Development Agency and also from exceptional partners like Teck, which you'll hear from later. But before focusing on MI's partnership with Teck, and because the focus of your study is broadly on aid and the private sector, I thought I would touch on a few areas of MI's work where the private sector has played or can play a role in the success and sustainability of our programming.
One significant win, not only for MI but for the world, has been salt iodization. Iodine deficiency is the leading preventable cause of brain damage, and it can significantly lower the IQ of entire populations. The most severe impacts of iodine deficiency occur during fetal development and in the first few weeks of life, so it's critical to reach women of child-bearing age and young children.
Because salt is commonly consumed even in impoverished areas, it's an ideal vehicle to carry iodine. In fact, the global strategy of choice for preventing iodine deficiency disorders is universal salt iodization. We take for granted when we go to our grocery store shelves that all of our salt is iodized, but that's not true in many pockets of impoverished areas of the world.
Salt iodization represents one of the world's largest and most impactful global health interventions, and it would not be possible without the private sector playing a pivotal role. In the mid-nineties, only about 20% of the world's salt was iodized, and today that percentage has jumped to about 75%.
MI works with small and medium-sized salt producers, providing technical support and know-how, and in some instances even technological applications, to ensure that the remaining 25% of the world's un-iodized salt is iodized. As well, I'll just say that this intervention is literally pennies per person for the amount of impact.
Last month I was in Bima, a very remote spot in Indonesia. I was with some of our staff there, walking through salt flats and meeting with salt harvesters. The harvesters, using wind or pedal power, draw water from the ocean into shallow ponds. Over time, in the heat the water evaporates, and the increasingly concentrated salt is pumped into different ponds until the salt can literally be raked by women, dried, and made ready for processing.
In Bima we're working with these small-scale salt manufacturers to improve their business. We're supporting their efforts to establish a salt co-op that will benefit their bottom line, providing some technical support to help them meet government standards and improve their processing, and providing mobile iodization equipment, which sprays iodine into the salt as it's ground so we can ensure that the salt they produce is infused with iodine, the iodine that will help improve lives and build healthy brains. When you iodize salt, you can raise IQ levels in a population by as much as 13 points. It's an example of where private sector meets public good.
Here's another example. I've brought some props. Forgive me: I'm relentless. What I have here is called chispitas. It's a single sachet of what are known as multiple micronutrient powders. They contain a mix of micronutrients—iron, vitamins A and C, zinc—and they're used to add nutritional value to the foods that are fed to small children. If you can imagine being in a rural village—this mix is from Bolivia—where whatever is in the family cooking pot gets portioned out and served to everybody in the family, even to young children who are a year or under two years old, like porridge, for example.... If you open a small sachet like this--which really costs pennies--and mix this in with the children's food, it adds good nutritional value.
In Bolivia, MI worked with the Ministry of Health on a tender for producing micronutrient powders and providing technical support to the private sector producers. The producers were motivated because they had a guaranteed public sector purchaser. In the end, chispitas were successfully marketed to end users using the private sector style of social marketing techniques. Again, private sector meets public good.
My last example before going to Teck is to speak briefly about vitamin A.
This little red capsule with a nub at the end—the nub is cut off and squeezed into a child's mouth to get the vitamin A into the child--looks simple, but it's a technological and global health marvel. It costs two cents per capsule. It takes only two capsules a year to ward off blindness, build up immune systems, and help save lives. So let me say it again: two cents per capsule; two capsules a year to save a life.
With CIDA's support, MI has distributed seven billion of these capsules to children around the world. To do so we work with private sector manufacturers to ensure that the world's supply of high-quality vitamin A is met. So private sector production has to be of the highest standard, because just imagine the technology needed for that little capsule to ensure that it maintains its integrity in blistering heat, or survives transport to some of the world's most remote locations. I've seen these bottles on shelves in clinics in Kenya and in remote health posts in Ethiopia.
Vitamin A scale up helped usher in a revolution in child survival. It's just another example of where private sector and public good meet.
Finally, my last example, and one of the most exciting, involves MI's partnership with the Government of Canada and Teck Resources in the unique private and public sector and civil society partnership called the Zinc Alliance for Child Health, or ZACH.
There's a persistent child killer that takes the lives of more than 4,000 children per day, and one and a half million lives per year, and that killer is diarrhea. It's just that nobody talks about it. You hear about pneumonia and you hear about malaria, but we don't talk about diarrhea enough. It's time to start talking dirty, as I say.
The combination of oral rehydration salt with a strip of ten zinc supplements is a new and extremely powerful treatment for reducing diarrheal disease. Many countries are trying to add zinc to their child health programs, and they're turning to organizations like Micronutrient Initiative for help. And that's where Teck comes in. In keeping with Teck's commitment to corporate social responsibility, Teck is providing MI with $5 million in new funding to scale up our zinc and ORS programming. Their generous contribution is being matched three to one with funds from CIDA, another partner in the alliance.
Our first ZACH project will roll out in Senegal with the support and leadership of the Government of Senegal, and we're looking at up to four other countries where we can have impact. ZACH has the potential to save and improve the lives of children around the world, and in doing so it will not only help Canada meet our Muskoka objectives, it just might be leading the way to the next revolution in child survival. It is also yet another example where private sector and public good intersect, and MI is honoured to be a partner in that.
In closing, MI values the relationship with private sector partners like Teck and sees this partnership as integral to meeting our mission, so we welcome the committee's study.
Thank you.
Doug Horswill
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Doug Horswill
2011-12-06 9:15
Thank you.
Thanks, Chris.
Teck and its predecessor company, Cominco, have been mining, smelting, refining, and selling zinc for a hundred years. Only in the last decade have we understood that it's not just a product that galvanizes steel and keeps your garbage cans from rusting; it's really a wonder element. It's crucial for human health. Children who are deficient in zinc end up stunted in growth. They end up not incapacitated, but with reduced capacity mentally. Crops that don't have enough zinc are deficient in terms of quality and quantity.
When it comes to tackling the issue of zinc deficiency, there are four uses. First is for acute deficiency. It can prevent deaths from diarrhea or the complications associated with diarrhea. Second is for chronic deficiency, which leads to growth and mental retardation. Third is the actual fortification of foodstuffs, which will affect not only children but the population generally. Fourth, ultimately, is the fortification of fertilizers, which in theory will actually improve the quality of the grain and the rice and so on grown in the zinc-sufficient soils. We can maybe eradicate a problem that today contributes something in the order of 450,000 deaths a year among children under five, according to UNICEF and WHO.
We're very pleased to have partnered with the Micronutrient Initiative and the Government of Canada on the Zinc Alliance for Child Health to try to recognize this role. We'd certainly like to thank the committee for inviting us here to talk about this.
Teck is a resource company, a mining and metals company, based in Vancouver. It has operations in the western hemisphere from 1000 miles north of Anchorage in Alaska through to southern Chile. We produce zinc, as I've already said, metallurgical or steel-making coal, and copper. We sell to markets around the world. We are one of the largest producers of zinc.
We have supported zinc health initiatives directly with MI and also through the International Zinc Association, together with UNICEF.
The world challenge is not that there is an insufficient quantity of zinc in the world. It's really about distributing it and getting it into the hands of the mothers who look after their children and understand the need to get zinc into their diets. It's education, it's distribution, and it's working within the supply chain. But the supply chain isn't so much the issue.
We've been working with MI for quite a number of years to actually formulate the partnership we're now executing, first with the program in Senegal and then, potentially, in other countries, as Chris mentioned. We launched the program last June. We're very excited to be able to continue it. With our resources, MI's knowledge and capability on the ground, the support of CIDA, other partners as we go forward--we're looking to bring other companies and other organizations, such as Save the Children, into this--and UNICEF, we can strengthen health programs around the world.
It's fascinating. As Chris says, we can save lives. For vitamin A, it's 4¢ a tablet or 2¢ a tablet. Treatment with zinc and oral rehydration salt together virtually eliminates the consequences of diarrhea. The zinc strengthens the immune system. The oral rehydration salts rehydrate the body. For 25¢ a treatment, you save the life of a child under five. So the more collaboration and partnership we can bring to it, the more resources and capability can be achieved.
We are always asked why we are involved in this. It's primarily to save the lives of children, to give back, and to do something we can be recognized for as a company. Our employees are extremely enthusiastic about this. It's amazing to see them and feel the vibrant enthusiasm they have, whether they are collecting money from each other or purchasing from our website. Employees can purchase material that has a zinc and health logo. They really get engaged.
It's certainly not a matter of selling more zinc. The amount of zinc that would be required to meet all of human need would amount to maybe 2% of our annual production—one tenth of 1% of the annual production of the whole industry. It's really immaterial from a transactional point of view. It's about reputation, global citizenship and doing the right thing. Having the opportunity within a product that we produce to be able to contribute so much is really quite exciting.
When you look at zinc deficiency, about a third of the world's population is actually zinc deficient. Zinc deficiency contributes to the death of about one and a half million children per year. Half a million of those, according to WHO and UNICEF studies and other scientific evidence, could be saved through the treatment that I mention. As we've seen the opportunity to contribute to a global issue, we've kind of stood up to the plate and taken the steps that we can take.
As an aside for a moment, in 2008 an organization called the Copenhagen Consensus Center—which some of you may have heard of—asked eight scientists, five of whom were Nobel laureates, how, if they had $50 billion to spend, they would spend it to make the world a better place. The top of their top ten list was vitamin A and zinc deficiency treatments, partly because zinc saves the lives of people with diarrhea, but also because of the IQ gain of populations in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and parts of South America that are zinc deficient. The IQ gain would just add to economic growth. When you see that kind of substantial and well-researched evidence, you think there's nothing better you can actually get into.
Teck Resources Limited is part of the United Nations Global Compact. As such, we have to commit activity and effort to achieve millennium development goals. In Teck Resources Limited's case, we've chosen MDG 4, to reduce by two thirds between 1990 and 2015 the death rate for children under five years old.
What the Micronutrient Initiative was doing meshed together perfectly with our global compact commitments on zinc, and gave us this opportunity. We hope we can take the Zinc Alliance for Child Health, with MI and CIDA, well beyond the scope and scale it's now at. The first program—the one we're in now—is Canadian. We believe that it could be replicated in countries like Australia, where there are zinc producers, government aid agencies, and potentially others. You could have a Zinc Alliance for Child Health in Australia, the U.S., or the U.K. We can bring in other partners from the NGO community, we hope, and Save the Children may be one. We can go beyond that in terms of other partnerships, such as the one that the IZA has with Zinc Saves Kids.
There are organizations around the world, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and GAIN, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, that have recognized the importance of zinc and are moving forward. In some ways, we're leading the way. We think our work is quite path-breaking in terms of the private-public partnership that it represents.
Thank you.
View Bob Dechert Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to go to Mr. Horswill and Teck.
We've talked about zinc and vitamin A and the interesting projects that Teck is involved with in respect to those two elements. I understand also that Teck has what is known as a copper program in Peru. I wonder if you could describe that program for us and tell us how it's contributing to economic growth in that country.
Doug Horswill
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Doug Horswill
2011-12-06 10:23
Yes. We're a partner in a mine called Antamina 400 kilometres north of Lima. Our other partners include BHP and Xstrata and one Japanese trading house.
In the Antamina program, maybe it's the focus on community development you're interested in.
Doug Horswill
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Doug Horswill
2011-12-06 10:24
There's a set of initiatives partly funded through a tax in Peru called a canon, which is additionally funded by a separate contribution from Antamina to a foundation run by local governments, mayors, and politicians. It funds infrastructure and agricultural opportunities and so on within the Ancash region of that part of Peru. The funding is running around $60 million a year, placed into trust, but I'm not certain of what the actual spending is. My hope is that they're building a capability to continue productive employment when the mine shuts down.
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