Vitamin A distribution essential for child health says UNICEF
Hanoi, 28 May 2004: UNICEF will be providing Vitamin A capsules for national distribution as part of Micronutrient Days, to be held on 1st and 2nd of June. Vitamin A deficiency is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness in children. It can lead to severe illness and even death from common childhood infections, such as diarrhoeal disease and measles. In pregnant women, Vitamin A deficiency causes night blindness and may increase the risk of maternal mortality.
For the past ten years, with UNICEF support, the Ministry of Health and the National Institute of Nutrition have organised the mass distribution of Vitamin A to coincide with Micronutrient Days. It is estimated that around 3.8 million children, aged from six months to 36 months (more than 95 per cent of target children) will receive a Vitamin A capsule. In addition, more than 1.3 million women after delivery and about 800,000 sick children will also receive Vitamin A supplements.
While there has been a substantial reduction in Vitamin A deficiency, largely due to the mass distribution of Vitamin A capsules, twelve per cent of children under five still have low Vitamin A levels in their blood, which lowers their resistance to disease. Around 50 per cent of breastfeeding women have low Vitamin A levels, which places them at risk of night blindness and also contributes to a lower Vitamin A intake for their children, via breastmilk.
This year, on 1 June, Mr Anthony Bloomberg, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam and Dr. Tran Chi Liem, Vice Minister of Health will observe the distribution of Vitamin A in Ba Vi District. “The majority of children in Viet Nam are now receiving regular doses of Vitamin A and as a result, blindness and other eye problems caused by Vitamin A deficiency have been virtually eliminated. However, some children are still missing out and we must ensure that every child and all breastfeeding women receive adequate Vitamin A. The annual Micronutrient Days are an excellent opportunity to distribute Vitamin A all over the country for the health of all Vietnamese children,” said Mr Bloomberg.
UNICEF provides Vitamin A capsules for all children and new mothers in Viet Nam through donations from the Canadian Micronutrient Initiative. In addition to the Vitamin A supplements, UNICEF also supports the Ministry of Health to promote appropriate infant and young child feeding practices including exclusive breastfeeding and to encourage good nutrition for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
For further information, please contact:
Ms Sue Spencer, UNICEF Communication Section, ph: (+84 4) 942 5706 ext 210 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms Maaike Arts, UNICEF Nutrition Section, ph: (+84 4) 942 5706 ext 402
Mr Nguyen Dinh Quang, UNICEF Nutrition Section, ph: (+84 4) 942 5706 ext 332 or email@example.com