National Vitamin A Plus Campaign to reach more than 19 million children
Dhaka, 29 May 2011: Bangladesh conducts a National Vitamin A Plus Campaign (NVAC) today. Life saving Vitamin A capsule (200,000 IU) will be given to more than 19 million children aged 1-5 years and a deworming tablet will be given to more than 17 million children aged 2- 5 years.
In addition, a Vitamin A capsule (100,000 IU) will be given to more than 200,000 children aged 6-11 months in Comilla, Moulvibazar, Gopalganj, Barisal and Satkhira districts, and Rajshahi and Barisal City Corporations as a pilot intervention.
Health workers and volunteers will administer Vitamin A capsules and deworming tablets at 140,000 sites located in health facilities, health centres, schools, as well as mobile sites (bus, boat and train stations) across the country.
Vitamin A supplementation contributes to build the immune system, helping children to better cope with common infections. Studies show that, Vitamin A-supplementation also helps children to grow faster, to be less anaemic, and it reduces the mortality rate. Improved Vitamin A status is associated with reduction in the rate of hospital admissions and reduced need for out-patient services at clinics, and therefore, lowers overall cost of health services. Guaranteeing high Vitamin A supplementation coverage of children is therefore critical, not only to eliminate Vitamin A deficiency but also as a central element of the child survival agenda.
Meanwhile, deworming is a relatively a low-cost intervention that contributes to anaemia prevention in this age group and it also increases absorption of Vitamin A.
“This is the first time that Vitamin A capsule will be provided to children aged 6-11 months during National Vitamin A Plus Campaign. Vitamin A supplementation and Albendazole administration to children are safe. This campaign marks another milestone towards attaining the global goal for sustainable elimination of Vitamin A deficiency by the year 2010”, said Professor Dr. Khondhaker Md. Shefyetullah, Director General of Health Services, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
According to WHO guideline, Vitamin A supplementation to children at 4-6 months interval and Albendazole to children aged 2-4 years are safe. Vitamin A supplementation and Albendazole administration have no serious side effects. Both Vitamin A capsules and deworming tablets (Albendazole), to be used for the campaign, were bought from approved pharmaceutical companies.
“Children in developing countries who do not receive Vitamin A supplementation are at higher risk of death and sickness than children who get Vitamin A supplementation 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 success and ensure better chances of survival for children.”
While 96 percent coverage of Vitamin A supplementation is a great achievement in Bangladesh, it also means that 4 percent children are missed out and they face increased risk of serious illness, blindness and death. So, the next step is to understand who these children are, where they are, and what can be done to reach them. The whole issue is about getting the children to the site or getting the field workers to the children. It is now important to push harder in reaching the unreached.
“I congratulate Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for its high achievement in Vitamin A supplementation among 12-59 months children. Given the poor dietary intake of Vitamin A, supplementation should be continued to increase vitamin A status.” said Carel de Rooy, UNICEF Bangladesh Representative. “Inclusion of Vitamin A supplementation in children aged 6-11 months through National Vitamin A Plus Campaign has set another milestone in attaining the high coverage since Vitamin A supplementation in children aged 12-59 months is as high as 96 percent through the campaign approach.”
The upcoming campaign is implemented by the Institute of Public Health Nutrition (IPHN), under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with collaboration from the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) and Primary Health Care. It is supported by UNICEF, Micronutrient Initiative and WHO.
• Iftikhar Ahmed Chowdhury, UNICEF Communication Officer, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 8852266, Ext: 7028