Micronutrient Initiative President Venkatesh Mannar appointed to the Order of Canada

Honour recognizes his tireless commitment to improving the lives of billions around the world

OTTAWA, Dec. 31, 2012 /CNW/ - The Micronutrient Initiative is proud to announce that its long-standing President, M.G. Venkatesh Mannar, has been appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada. For almost 40 years, Mr. Mannar has been working to reduce debilitating micronutrient deficiencies among the world's most vulnerable. The organization, including MI's Board of Directors and MI staff around the world, are pleased that his hard work and dedication is being recognized by one of the country's highest civilian honours. The Officer of the Order of Canada recognizes a lifetime of achievement and merit of a high degree, especially in service to Canada or to humanity at large.

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals needed by the body in only small quantities but make a huge difference to survival and health. Around the world, billions of people live with vitamin and mineral deficiencies, putting them at greater risk of death and disabilities. The world's poorest citizens, especially women and children, are the most vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies. When whole populations suffer from malnutrition, including a lack of critical vitamins and minerals, nations likewise cannot fulfill their potential.

Mannar started his journey to saving and improving lives when he became interested in salt iodization; iodine is essential for brain development. As a sixth-generation salt processor in India, he became fascinated with the opportunities to end iodine deficiency disorders, the leading cause of preventable brain damage, by using salt as a vehicle for iodine. He left his family business to become a consultant for international agencies such as UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization in the area of salt iodization. He helped establish salt iodization in more than 50 countries, making a huge contribution to what is largely considered to be one of the most successful public health campaigns of the 20th century. Today nearly 4 billion people have access to iodized salt.

Mannar and his family chose Canada as their adopted home in 1990. In 1994, he was chosen to lead what was then a small pilot project associated with Canada's International Development Research Centre called the Micronutrient Initiative (MI). Mannar spearheaded programs in vitamin A, which boosts children's immune systems and saves their lives, salt iodization, and iron and folic acid, essential for the health of women and their babies. Under Mannar's leadership, the organization has become an international and globally-respected not-for-profit Canadian organization, supporting programs that reach approximately 500 million people in more than 70 countries each year. With support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and other generous donors, MI is now expanding its life-saving work into new areas that includes scaling up zinc for the treatment of diarrhoea, community-based maternal and newborn health, and multiple micronutrients for the health, growth and development of children.

Mannar's engineering background and interest in food fortification led him to co-invent, with Dr. Levente Diosady of the University of Toronto, Double Fortified Salt, whereby iron is added to iodized salt to reduce both iron and iodine deficiencies. This innovation earned him the Nokia Tech Award for Health in 2010 and has the potential to deliver both of these life-enhancing micronutrients to millions of people.

Mannar was born in Chennai, India and graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras before doing post-graduate work in chemical engineering at Northwestern University, USA. He lives in Ottawa with his wife Vijaya, has two sons and one granddaughter.

About the Order of Canada

Established in 1967 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Order of Canada is the centrepiece of the Canadian Honours System, and recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. The Order recognizes people in all sectors of Canadian society. Their contributions are varied, yet they have all enriched the lives of others and made a difference to this country.

About the Micronutrient Initiative

The Micronutrient Initiative is an Ottawa-based, international not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that the world's most vulnerable - especially women and children - in developing countries get the vitamins and minerals they need to survive and thrive through supplementation and food fortification programs. Its mission be a global leader in advancing integrated, innovative and sustainable solutions to reduce vitamin and mineral deficiencies through advocacy, technical and programmatic support, in collaboration with others. With Canadian support, the organization is saving and improving the lives of 500 million people annually in 70 countries with its child survival, child health, growth and development, and women's and newborn survival and health programs.

Image with caption: "The logo of the Micronutrient Initiative (CNW Group/Micronutrient Initiative)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20121231_C3656_PHOTO_EN_22237.jpg

Image with caption: "President of the Micronutrient Initiative M.G. Venkatesh Mannar surveys salt fields in India. Mannar was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada on December 30, 2012 (CNW Group/Micronutrient Initiative)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20121231_C3656_PHOTO_EN_22234.jpg

SOURCE: Micronutrient Initiative

For further information:

and photos: 

Aynsley Morris
Micronutrient Initiative
Tel. +1.613.782.6831
Mobile +1.613.218.8427
Email: amorris@micronutrient.org

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