Vitamin A Supplementation Improving Lives Of Children
Botswana, Gaborone, 28th February 2011: Vitamin A Deficiency amongst young children is a major health problem worldwide and contributes to childhood illnesses and deaths related to diarrhoea, malaria and measles.
In Botswana, Vitamin A Deficiency has long been identified as a public health problem among children but despite the introduction of routine high dose vitamin A supplementation for children in all health facilities, the 2007 EPI coverage survey found that few children were reached - only 47% received the first dose and 20% their second dose .
Since 2009, with the launch of the Accelerated Child Survival and Development (ACSD) strategy, the Ministry of Health decided to revive the VAS programme in order to give children more survival chances. This happened through the bi-annual accelerated distribution of Vitamin A capsules for children 6-59 months old which started in May 2009.
The objectives of the accelerated distribution of Vitamin A capsules were to supplement 90% of children aged 6-59 months with two doses of Vitamin A countrywide and to mobilize health workers and the community in support of Vitamin A Supplementation.
In 2009, the Ministry conducted two Vitamin A Supplementation campaigns in all 24 health districts: the first one in May and the second one in November coupled with measles immunizations. In 2010, VAS was integrated within the nationwide Child Health Days, held in June and November 2010.
UNICEF Botswana works hand in hand with the Ministry of Health’s Department of Public Health and Central Medical Stores to support bi-annual Vitamin A Supplementation for children 6-59 months old.
High Vitamin A Supplementation coverage reached in the first two years of implementing the bi-annual distribution of Vitamin A Capsules
The 2009 VAS campaigns were preceded by training of 91 districts coordinators and 4,315 implementers, including nurses, nutritionists, PMTCT counsellors and volunteers.
The 2009 campaign objectives have been met with nationwide coverage of 89% in May and 92% coverage in November.
In June 2010, Vitamin A Supplementation coverage remained high - above 80% - despite a slight decrease when compared to 2009. Final data for November 2010 are not yet available.
The success of the bi-annual distribution of Vitamin A capsules is attributed to the collaborative efforts and mobilization of health workers and community members as well as the national social mobilisation strategy prior to the distribution of Vitamin A. Health facility management, community members, religious and traditional leaders were sensitized. Information materials in the form of posters, booklets and flyers were distributed in the communities during the visits of mobilisation teams.
Local media (radio, television and newspaper) participation also contributed to this success.
The way forward
With such a successful Vitamin A Supplementation programme for children 6-59 months old in these last two years, the way forward is to sustain these child survival achievements and ensure that any children who missed out during these rounds of VAS are found and given their dose.
UNICEF Botswana continues to work and engage with the Ministry of Health for a sustainable and efficient Vitamin A Supplementation programme for children in Botswana. The initiated transition of the procurement of vitamin A capsules from UNICEF to Ministry of Health’s Central Medical Stores is a key contributing factor to VAS sustainability.
 2007 EPI Coverage Survey, Ministry of Health.
 Coverage estimates are calculated using the United Nations Population Division population estimates.