Vitamin A supplementation campaign for more than 20 million children on 6 June, 2009Thursday, 4 June 2009. On Saturday June 6, Bangladesh will conduct a National Vitamin A Plus campaign. More than 20 million children aged 1 to 5 years will be reached with life-saving Vitamin A capsules and 19 million children aged 2 to 5 years will receive deworming tablets. Messages on exclusive breast feeding will also be disseminated during the campaign,
Health workers and volunteers will administer Vitamin A at 140,000 sites located in health facilities, health centres, schools, as well as mobile sites (bus, boat and train stations) across the country.
Despite the damages caused to roads and houses, the campaign will be carried out in all districts as planned including cyclone Aila-affected districts. Additional sites will be set up to reach all children in the cyclone affected districts..
Deworming is relatively a low-cost intervention that contributes to anaemia prevention in this age group and it also increases absorption of Vitamin A.
Breastfeeding infants exclusively up to six months of age contributes to reduction in under 5 years mortality by 13%. Breastfeeding within one hour of birth can save lives of 37,000 neonates in Bangladesh.
“This campaign marks another milestone towards attaining the global goal for sustainable elimination of Vitamin A deficiency by the year 2010”, commented Professor Dr. Shah Monir Hossain, Director General of Health Services, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
“Children in developing countries who do not benefit from Vitamin A supplementation programmes are at higher risk of morbidity and mortality than children who get Vitamin A twice a year”, explained Professor Dr. Fatima Parveen Chowdhury, Director of the Institute of Public Health Nutrition (IPHN). “All sectoral partners, including frontline workers and volunteers, are requested to lend their full support to make this campaign a great success and ensure better chances of survival for children.”
In countries where mortality among young children is high, Vitamin A supplementation (with two doses per year) may be the single most cost-effective child survival intervention. It is estimated that Vitamin A capsules save the lives of over 30,000 children per year in Bangladesh and reduce illness amongst thousands of others.
“Vitamin A supplementation provides a highly cost-effective way of strengthening children’s immunity system”. said Carel De Rooy, Country Representative to Bangladesh. “ A simple Vitamin A capsule, each costing only 1 Taka, can increase a child’s chances of survival by up to 25 per cent.”
Bangladesh is recognized globally as a pioneer in the elimination of Vitamin A deficiency as the first country in South Asia to integrate Vitamin A supplementation of children aged 1-5 years with the Polio National Immunization Days (NIDs) in 1995. It was also one of the first to develop a strategy to continue providing Vitamin A supplementation to children using a campaign approach after the discontinuation of polio NIDs. This new strategy, the National Vitamin A Plus Campaign, is used to deliver other interventions to children, including deworming tablets (albendazole) and the promotion of child feeding practices.
Furthermore, since 2004, Bangladesh is one of the few countries that has been purchasing Vitamin A capsules with its revenue funds through the National Nutrition Programme and IPHN. Due to efforts of the Government and partners in Bangladesh, the coverage of Vitamin A supplementation increased from around 50 per cent in the mid-1990s to 95 per cent among children age 12-59 month. Similarly deworming has increased to 85 per cent for children age 24-59 months in recent years. The National Vitamin A Plus Campaign in Bangladesh is a good model for other countries that are struggling to achieve and maintain high coverage of Vitamin A supplementation.
The up-coming campaign is implemented by the IPHN, under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with collaboration from the Expanded Programme on Immunization. It is supported by UNICEF, the Micronutrient Initiative, Canadian International Development Agency and WHO.
• Christine Jaulmes, UNICEF Chief Communication and Information, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or Iftikhar Chowdhury, UNICEF Communication Officer, e-mail: email@example.com, Tel: 9336701-10