Myanmar, Republic of the Union of

In Myanmar, 5 million children receive vitamin A

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Myanmar/2005/Thame
In 2005, UNICEF Myanmar provided more than 5 million children with vitamin A supplements, saving lives and preserving children’s vision.

As part of the launch of ‘Progress for Children No.4: A Report Card on Nutrition’, UNICEF is featuring a series of stories focusing on successful initiatives that can help counter the many threats to children's nutritional status.

OKKALAPA, Myanmar, June 2006 – In a township outside Yangon, Myanmar’s capital city, health workers visit the home of Aye Aye Thwe and give her child a free dose of vitamin A. As the mother nestles her child in her arms, a midwife gently pinches the boy’s cheeks and squeezes a few drops from a vitamin A capsule into his mouth.

Less than a decade ago, thousands of children in Myanmar fell victim each year to impaired vision or blindness because of vitamin A deficiency. Now UNICEF is working to remedy this situation and allow Myanmar’s children to grow up with normal vision.

Just a few golden drops of vitamin A will make an enormous difference in a child’s life. “Vitamin A will protect my child from illness,” said Aye Aye Thwe. “And even when he falls ill, the illness won’t last as long, he’ll recover more easily. Vitamin A also gives children good eyesight, and helps prevent blurred vision and night blindness.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Myanmar/2005/Thame
Health workers travel door to door to provide supplemental vitamin A for children, even those living in remote villages.

In 2005, UNICEF and partners provided more than 5 million children aged 6 months to 5 years with the life-saving supplement, which has been shown to reduce the risk of mortality by up to 23 per cent. Some 500,000 lactating women were also supplied with vitamin A supplements.

“Our work to provide children across Myanmar with vitamin A has been an extremely successful public health initiative,” said UNICEF’s Health and Nutrition Chief, Dr. Anne Vincent. “UNICEF is working closely with health counterparts and other organizations to virtually eliminate vitamin A deficiency in the not-too-distant future.”

A balanced diet is best

The best source of vitamin A is a diet rich in leafy green vegetables and eggs. But in many parts of Myanmar, children’s diets lack diversity – resulting in vitamin deficiency. Health workers travel door-to-door to provide supplemental vitamin A for children, even those living in remote villages. The workers also educate parents on how to give their children a healthy and balanced diet.

Ohnmar Win, mother of one-year-old Thet Mon Thaw, appreciates the benefits her daughter will reap from her dose of vitamin A. “She’ll have good eyesight, and the vitamin A will prevent illness,” she says.

Little Thet Mon Thaw doesn’t initially share her mother’s enthusiasm. She wiggles and squirms as midwife Moe Pa Pa tries to squeeze a few vitamin A drops in her mouth. But her mood quickly changes as soon as the drops hit her tongue. The squeals stop, and a smile breaks out on her face as she claps her hands. Her mother smiles too, knowing her daughter will be healthier in the future.

Today, UNICEF supplies nearly all of the vitamin A capsules in Myanmar. To continue the effort, the agency needs $150,000 over the next five years to ensure the next generation grows up strong and healthy.


 

 

Video

UNICEF correspondent Jane O’Brien reports on the organization’s effort to reach every child in Myanmar with essential vitamin A.
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