Around 100,000 children in India are to receive iron and zinc supplements in a bid to study the effects of the minerals on mortality rates, reports the Indian Times.
The project is being run by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the Delhi Municipal Corporation (MCD).
MCD commissioner Rakesh Mehta said the project will focus on children from two to 36 months. He said: "Studies have shown that 74 per cent of all children in this age group are anaemic and this in turn affects their growth and brain development in their most formative years."
AIIMS professor Dr M K Bhan said: "In our country, iron and zinc deficiency is not restricted to the poorer classes. All vegetarians who basically have a cereal diet do not get to consume food sources of zinc."
"In the last 30 years our doctors have been trying to control anaemia but without much success. In our national iron supplementation programme, only tablets are given out so very small children who cannot swallow tablets get left out," he added.
He said iron syrups designed to improve infant nutrition were difficult to distribute as they were in glass bottles.
"In the current pilot project, our workers are going from house to house to distribute tablets. We have educated mothers of very young children that they should dissolve the iron tablet in a small quantity of breast milk and feed it to their children," Bhan said.
Bhan added that the programme had so far been well-accepted.