Kirk Humanitarian, a US-based philanthropy, has pledged an in-kind donation of $34.4m to support the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) initiative to improve nutrition for women and babies.

UNICEF will use the funds to provide essential prenatal vitamins to safeguard women’s nutrition during pregnancy.

The donation will expand access to prenatal vitamins for 16 million women across 16 high-priority countries by the end of next year. These prenatal vitamins, also known as multiple micronutrient supplements (UNIMMAP MMS), contain 15 essential vitamins and offer considerable benefits for both mother and baby when consumed during pregnancy.

The contribution will bolster UNICEF’s recent Improving Maternal Nutrition Acceleration Plan. This initiative aims to ensure that women and children can achieve their full potential by combating anaemia and malnutrition in pregnant women.

The donation covers all necessary MMS to execute the plan, with additional backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Furthermore, the plan will be implemented via the UNICEF-led Child Nutrition Fund, which is a new funding mechanism incorporating a 1:1 match for governments sourcing vital nutrition supplies.

UNICEF Child Nutrition and Development Director Victor Aguayo said: “We recognise the leadership of Kirk Humanitarian in donating MMS to reach 16 million women who will benefit from these high impact prenatal vitamins.

“We are committed to working together with national governments and our development and humanitarian partners to achieve the full vision of the Maternal Nutrition Acceleration Plan by 2024.”

Kirk Humanitarian has also committed $125m to increase MMS access to women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

It will support worldwide initiatives to introduce and expand the use of MMS over the next five years.

Kirk Humanitarian founder and managing director Spencer Kirk said: “Country demand and readiness to scale this lifesaving intervention has never been greater, and mechanisms like the Child Nutrition Fund enable collaboration between governments and donors like never before.

“Kirk Humanitarian is pleased to collaborate with UNICEF in support of the Maternal Nutrition Acceleration Plan, so resources can be deployed immediately to accelerate progress toward reaching global nutrition targets for women and newborns.”