Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is the most prevalent form of micronutrient deficiency and the primary driver behind about 50 percent of the approximately 300 million anemia cases among children. In the past, children at risk for anemia were given iron syrups and drops, but adherence challenges prompted a recent search for an innovative solution. Micronutrient powders (MNPs) – frequently referred to by the brand name Sprinkles – were invented as a low-cost substitute product with improved acceptability and adherence. Easily mixed by caregivers into homemade foods, MNPs were first endorsed in 2007 to improve the iron and anemia status of populations affected by emergencies.
Despite the low cost of MNPs, at only about $0.03 per sachet, or $1.80 per 60-sachet course, to public sector buyers, only a small fraction of the 34 million children in the highest-burden countries targeted for this intervention, and less than 5 percent of all anemic children globally, have received MNPs. The depth of the evidence base on impact and cost efficiency – MNPs have an estimated benefit-cost ratio as high as 37:113 – suggests that MNPs warrant far greater attention and investment than they are currently receiving.
Results for Development Institute (R4D) – with technical support from the Micronutrient Initiative (MI) and in close consultation with more than 140 stakeholders from country governments, multilaterals, NGOs, academic research centers, and the private sector – has undertaken an extensive landscape analysis of both demand- and supply-side challenges and of opportunities for delivering MNPs to infants and young children from 6 to 23 months of age. The scope of this work was primarily focused on identifying the feasibility and key opportunities for use of market-based approaches, while also noting the important role of the public sector in scaling access to this vital product.