Challenging the threat of vitamin A deficiency in Uzbekistan
August 21, 2006. Tashkent. The Uzbekistan Ministry of Health and UNICEF are kicking off the seventh round in a series of Vitamin A supplementation for children from six months to five years of age. The campaign will occur throughout the week of August 21 and some 2,800 various primary health care centres (SVP, out-patient departments, children’s polyclinics, etc.) in all regions will participate and ultimately reach 2,000,000 children.
The campaign, known as “Healthy Child Week,” is a semi-annual event held in February and August. This marks the seventh “Healthy Child Week” in the last four years. One way of reaching children includes reaching out first to the parents with invitations to the various health centres and municipal polyclinics where the Vitamin A doses are distributed.
Vitamin A deficiency is a serious matter for young children; lack of vitamin A weakens the immune system and can result in stunting, developmental retardation and an increased risk of blindness. Vitamin A deficiency is certainly not the only threat to children’s health, however, which is why “Healthy Child Week” is also being used to raise awareness to the value of exclusive breastfeeding and the advantages of the consumption of fortified flour and bread.
Note for editors
Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is one of the most important health issues worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 275 million people globally are anemic and 250 to 500, 000 people suffer from poor or failed eyesight due to VAD. Children in their first five years of life and women of childbearing age are most vulnerable to VAD. Consider the following global statistics:
• 140 million pre-school age children and 7 million pregnant women suffer from VAD;
People in more than 110 countries of the world suffer VAD. In Uzbekistan, studies conducted in 1994 in the Republic of Karakalpakstan showed that 40 to 60 per cent of children suffered from medium and severe VAD. A medical survey of children under five years of age conducted in Ferghana region in 2002 revealed that nine per cent of children in this region suffered from severe VAD, 45 per cent of children had medium to severe VAD and 37 per cent of children had mild VAD. Only nine per cent of children were not affected by VAD.
To combat VAD, the Republic has implemented programs aimed at the prevention of micronutrient deficiency. To this extent, short-term approaches (supplementation of diet with microelements and vitamins (non-medication method), medium-term approaches (fortification of flour, bread, salt, oil with iron, iodine, zinc, folic acid, Vitamins A and B) and long-term approaches (change in dietary habits, balanced diet) are necessary to provide comprehensive and lasting solutions.
Dilorom Akhmedova, Chief Pediatrist of the Ministry of Health of the RoUz
Rustam Khaidarov, Officer, Public Communications and Marketing, National Flour Fortification Program