The Eleanor Crook Foundation and Philanthropic Partners Release New Investment Case to Reach Pregnant Women Worldwide with a Complete Prenatal Supplement

May 2024
Topic Investment

WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 31, 2024 – The Eleanor Crook Foundation (ECF), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and Kirk Humanitarian have announced a groundbreaking investment roadmap to reach millions more pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries with a complete prenatal supplement, known as multiple micronutrient supplementation, or MMS.*

“Healthier Pregnancies and Brighter Futures for Mothers and Babies: A global investment roadmap for multiple micronutrient supplementation” includes first-of-its-kind analysis on what it will take to scale MMS, a cost-effective, high-impact nutrition intervention. With uptake, the plan would save more than half a million lives, improve birth outcomes for more than five million babies, and prevent anemia in over 15 million pregnant women. The four philanthropies have extensive experience supporting country governments to introduce MMS, and are committed to leveraging additional investment and engagement to scale MMS in countries where the burden of malnutrition is highest.

The Eleanor Crook Foundation’s Managing Director, Kim Cernak, presented the investment roadmap today as part of a series of events hosted on the sidelines of Roland-Garros by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs in partnership with the Gates Foundation and the Women’s Tennis Association Foundation. These events begin the official countdown to the Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit. Kirk Humanitarian made the first pledge for N4G 2025 with a $125 million commitment to MMS.

“When we invest in pregnant women with multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS), we can improve the health and wellbeing of millions of mothers and babies during pregnancy and at birth,” said Spencer Kirk, Founder and Managing Director of Kirk Humanitarian. “There is no reason to wait—we have a costed roadmap, MMS supply is available, and now is the critical time when action must happen. We are turning up the volume; calling upon donors, national governments, and development and humanitarian organizations to join us for this all-hands-in effort to help place this critical intervention in the hands of women everywhere.”

Kim Cernak, ECF’s Managing Director, said, “More than two decades of evidence confirms that MMS is a superior prenatal vitamin, capable of saving and improving lives. It is time for catalytic and coordinated action to bring the power of MMS to pregnant women and their babies. We call on donors to urgently step up, support country leadership, and fulfill the vision of this investment roadmap. The women and children who disproportionately bear the burden of malnutrition deserve nothing less.”

It is commonly recommended that pregnant women take a prenatal supplement containing a range of vitamins and minerals that guard against common nutrient deficiencies that can occur during pregnancy. MMS contains 15 essential nutrients and is proven to be safe and effective. When taken daily, MMS can support a healthy pregnancy, prevent maternal anemia and reduce the risk of babies being born small and vulnerable, or even stillborn. MMS costs less than two cents per daily tablet, and is frequently cited as one of the best buys in global health and nutrition.

And yet despite its proven effectiveness, most women in low- and middle-income countries receive an inferior prenatal supplement that contains only two ingredients (iron and folic acid, or IFA), if they receive anything at all. Mothers who only receive IFA miss out on the lifesaving benefits that MMS provides for a child’s health and nutrition. This inequity is particularly troublesome given that the prevalence of maternal malnutrition and the risk of child mortality is high in low- and middle-income countries.

“Healthier Pregnancies and Brighter Futures for Mothers and Babies” presents a plan for how to reach at least 260 million women with MMS by the end of 2030. The cost amounts to just over $4 per pregnancy—for a total cost of $1.1 billion over seven years. The overall cost accounts for introducing MMS and surpassing current IFA coverage levels, which will require strengthening health systems and ensuring an affordable supply of the product. Kirk Humanitarian’s  commitment of $125 million represents 17 percent of the donor share, bringing the donor financial share down to $595 million between now and 2030.

Dozens of countries have identified delivering MMS to vulnerable women as an urgent priority, which has accelerated global momentum for introducing and scaling MMS. National governments and stakeholders are prepared to embark on the effort required to scale up MMS, but will need additional support and resources from international funders. The investment roadmap released today provides a framework for funders to meet this moment.

“Every expecting mother should receive high quality health care,” said Anita Zaidi, President, Gender Equality Division at the Gates Foundation. “As more women gain access to antenatal care services around the world, we must ensure that includes nutrition counseling and support. Investing in MMS is a commitment to supporting all women—no matter where they live—with the quality care that they and their babies deserve.”

Anna Hakobyan, Chief Impact Officer and Executive Director, Nutrition at CIFF, said, “MMS is an evidence-based intervention that should be accessible to all women everywhere, through both public and private sector distribution. I am excited that we have come together as partners to launch this roadmap to mobilize resources and expand our collective reach. CIFF is committed to improving children’s and women’s health and nutrition, including through MMS, and advancing the evidence base further. We encourage others to join us.”

The path toward a more equitable landscape for pregnant women worldwide will require bold commitments from all stakeholders—and it will require that donors commit to engage with country-led efforts to coordinate MMS investment and action for each unique context. A full list of countries interested in transitioning to MMS can be found here, and the appendix of the roadmap includes profiles of countries that have begun to explore this transition.

*MMS refers to the United Nations International Multiple Micronutrient Antenatal Preparation (UNIMMAP) formulation that has been used in clinical trials.

 

About the Eleanor Crook Foundation (ECF):

The Eleanor Crook Foundation is a U.S. philanthropy fighting to end global malnutrition through research, policy analysis, and advocacy.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a nonprofit fighting poverty, disease, and inequity around the world.

About the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation:

The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) is the largest philanthropic organization in the world dedicated to improving the lives of children.

About Kirk Humanitarian:

Kirk Humanitarian is a family philanthropy dedicated to ensuring pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries receive high-quality prenatal supplements, creating a healthier and more equitable world.

 

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Eleanor Crook Foundation

Nyequai Harte, Associate Director of Communications

[email protected]

 

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