A conversation with the Micronutrient Initiative on September 15, 2011

Overview

The Micronutrient Initiative (MI) focuses on improving nutrition, particularly of pregnant women and young (under-5) children. It supports some piloting and operations research, but its focus is on very large-scale programs, for which it provides technical assistance as well as procurement for supplies such as Vitamin A supplements.

Primarily funded by CIDA. MI has a variety of other donors for specific and targeted activities, including the US-fund for UNICEF, the Children’s Investment Fund, etc. Funding base has been on the order of 30-35 million, growing in the current fiscal year to about $40-45 million. MI hopes to reach around $50 million by the end of next year, and sees significant room to use more funding to accomplish more.

On differences with GAIN: GAIN generally focuses more on private sector partnerships, whereas Micronutrient Initiative focuses primarily on reaching low income groups through quality execution of government programs to distribute supplements and private sector efforts to fortify staples.

Each year, MI produces reports to core funders on projects it has carried out - what was done and how much was spent. The largest of these is to CIDA, totaling 100-150 pages.

Room for more funding

On the question of how $1 million (or funding in that range) could be put to good use, MI sees many possibilities.

Salt Iodization

On Vitamin A supplementation

Subsidies are provided (the costs of the capsules themselves is covered, though the government costs of distributing them are much higher than the costs of the capsules). MI provides Vitamin A supplements for around 70 countries, through UNICEF, and estimates that only around 5 have graduated from subsidy.

Funding gaps

Quantifying impact

MI's strategic plan states that it will estimate figures like the number of child deaths averted, cognitive impairments averted, women who no longer suffer from moderate-to-severe anemia, etc. GiveWell asks: does MI maintain these numbers and find them helpful/meaningful, or is it more at the request of donors that they're produced? MI responds: these numbers are calculated and the details may be able to be shared; in general, MI is a truly metrics-driven organization and finds formal evaluation to be meaningful and helpful. MI is also highly committed to transparency and is happy to share what can be shared.