Vitamin A campaign completed in Kyrgyzstan
Approximately a third of children in the country below the age of five suffer from vitamin A deficiency.
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, May 20, 2008 - Nearly half million Kyrgyzstan children have received vitamin A supplements in a national campaign to tackle dietary deficiencies.
It means 98.9 per cent of children in the country below the age of 5 have been reached.
“The success of the campaign was largely due to the mobilization of communities by local health workers, the strategic partnership between UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, and the high level of awareness existing in the country on the benefits of vitamin A for children,“ said UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan, Tim Schaffter,
The campaign took place in Kyrgyzstan on 21-27 April 2008 during the European Week of Immunization.
Research carried out by UNICEF in partnership with the WHO in 2002 showed that the diet of the population in the country does not include enough iron and vitamin A. Experts noted that only 32.7 per cent of children in the country eat meat daily, whereas a larger proportion (41.2 per cent) only eat meat once a week. Only about 18 per cent of children consume eggs and butter every day.
This latest vitamin A campaign meant 452,000 under-fives were reached.
Vitamin A, iron and iodine deficiency lead to anaemia, thyroid adenoma, and dysfunction of the immune system. They also lead to a reduction in the intellectual and physical development of children. During pregnancy and when giving birth, woman are at risk of premature delivery or even of losing their children, owing to vitamin A deficiency.
In 2003 the Ministry of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic, with the support of UNICEF, developed a strategy and a plan of action for supplementation of vitamin A for children aged between six months and five years, and also for mothers.
Since 2004, with the support of UNICEF and in close cooperation with the Ministry of Health, campaigns have been carried out twice a year in Kyrgyzstan for mass provision of vitamins for infants and mothers. As a result, almost half a million children in Kyrgyzstan receive doses of vitamin A in the quantity necessary for development and growth. Additionally, all women in Kyrgyzstan (around 118,000 in 2007) receive vitamin A immediately after delivery in maternity wards.
At the same time as receiving vitamin A supplements, the population also receives information about how to change family feeding patterns so that in each family children can be born and grow healthily.
Such mass campaigns will continue in the country into the future – as long as children in Kyrgyzstan suffer such a high rate of micronutrient deficiency, and as long as the issue of provision of such micronutrients at an adequate level through foodstuffs is not solved.
UNICEF in Kyrgyzstan continues its long-term work to improve the legislative base in the field of feeding and provision of necessary micronutrients in flour, salt and other basic foodstuffs.
The period since the disintegration of Soviet Union in Kyrgyzstan has seen a marked and steady deterioration in the state of health of the population. This has been caused by a decrease in a standard of living of families (experts estimate that the level of poverty today in the country is 52 per cent), and growth in inflation and unemployment. These in turn negatively influence the food quality and feeding patterns of the population. Groups at risk include children, pregnant women and feeding mothers.
In Kyrgyzstan, the child mortality rate has increased (28.2 deaths for every 1000 live births). Almost 35 per cent of the deaths are caused by respiratory diseases and about 14 per cent by intestinal infections. About 33 percent of children between 6 months and 5 years of age suffer from vitamin A deficiency in their blood serum.