National Vitamin A Plus campaign to reach more than 20 million childrenWednesday, 26 May 2010: Bangladesh will conduct a National Vitamin A Plus Campaign next Saturday, May 29, in order to improve the health status of children in the country.
More than 20 million children aged 1 to 5 years will be reached with life-saving Vitamin A capsules and 18 million children aged 2 to 5 years will receive de-worming tablets. Messages on breast feeding will also be provided to mothers.
On the day of campaign, health workers and volunteers will administer Vitamin A capsules and Albendazole tablets at 140,000 sites located in health facilities, health centres, schools, as well as mobile sites, which will include bus, boat and train stations across the country.
Vitamin A deficiency poses a major threat to the health and survival of children and mothers. Effects of Vitamin A deficiency extend much beyond blindness alone. Vitamin A deficiency increases the risk of child death from diseases such as measles, diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections. Vitamin A deficiency also increases severity and duration of illness.
Vitamin A is also contained in breast-milk. Breastfeeding could be seen as a baby’s first Vitamin A supplementation contact. Breastfeeding children exclusively from zero to six months of age contributes to the reduction of under-5 child mortality by 13 per cent, while breastfeeding within one hour of birth can save the lives of 37,000 neonates in Bangladesh.
Worm infestation in children causes weight loss, poor growth and anaemia, leading to poor educational achievement. De-worming improves the nutritional status of children and increases the absorption of Vitamin A. WHO recommends that all children in countries such as Bangladesh, where more than 50 per cent of children have worm infestations, receive this treatment.
Vitamin A supplementation for children aged 1-5 years at 4-6 months interval and Albendazole treatment to children aged 2-5 years are safe.
“This National Vitamin A Plus Campaign marks another milestone towards achieving Millennium Development Goal (MDG)-4”, said Professor Dr. Shah Monir Hossain, Director General of Health Services, Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. “Any effort to achieve MDG-4 to reduce child mortality will need to adequately address the major causes of child death.”
Since 2004, Bangladesh is one of the few countries purchasing Vitamin A capsules with its own funds and in 2010 the Government is contributing to programme operation cost of the campaign.
Due to efforts of the Government and partners in Bangladesh, the coverage of Vitamin A supplementation among children aged 12-59 months has increased to 96.6 per cent in 2010 from 85 per cent in 2005. Similarly de-worming has increased to 86.7 per cent for children aged 24-59 months in recent years.
“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 it twice a year”, explained Professor Dr. Fatima Parveen Chowdhury, Director of the Institute of Public Health Nutrition (IPHN).
“A simple Vitamin A capsule, each costing only about 1.0 Taka (US$ 0.02), is a highly cost-effective way of strengthening children’s immune system”, said Carel de Rooy, UNICEF Representative. He also commended the efforts of government and its partners for implementing this campaign across Bangladesh.
The up-coming National Vitamin A Plus campaign is implemented by the IPHN, under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with collaboration from the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI). It is supported by UNICEF, the Micronutrient Initiative and WHO.
• Christine Jaulmes, UNICEF Chief Communication and Information, e-mail: email@example.com or Iftikhar Chowdhury, UNICEF Communication Officer, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 9336701-10, Fax: 9335641-42