Blue Force volunteers engage in National Vitamin A campaign targeting 21 million children
The volunteers have also promoted key nutrition practices and conducted home visits to encourage mothers to bring their children for Vitamin A supplementation
Shimul Das, a Health Assistant from the Daspara Family Welfare Centre (FWC), organised a Vitamin A capsule distribution site with the support of community and youth volunteers on 11 January 2020 outside Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka.
Among them was Simsang Fring Chambugong, UNICEF’s Blue Force volunteer to support the nationwide campaign.
“I have been studying nutrition in Bangladesh Home Economics College. But this is the first time that I feel my learning has come to the use of others. “Most people do not even know that vegetables and meat contain Vitamin A. As a result, many of their children suffer from night blindness and a host of other illnesses,” she says. “I have been talking to mothers all day about children’s nutrition.”
21 million children get Vitamin A capsules in a day
In this one-day national campaign, 21 million children have been targeted through 120,000 permanent and 20,000 makeshift distribution sites.
The campaign is led by National Nutrition Services (NNS), Institute of Public Health Nutrition (IPHN) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of Bangladesh. Over 95 per cent of the cost for the campaign has been funded by the Government including the capsules
Use of Realtime Monitoring and reporting
Real Time Monitoring and Reporting (RTMR) approach has been also used to monitor the campaign by using android smart phones. Data from monitoring was automatically uploaded, analysed and the findings reported through real-time online dashboard. About 1,175 monitors (including the Blue Force volunteers) visited about 8,700 distribution centres, covering 85 per cent of 492 sub-districts in the country.
“I have been monitoring the services and inserting my findings in an online app,” says Lipi Rani Mandal, another volunteer at Square Hospital in Dhaka.
Even the Honourable Minister of Health and Family Welfare reported the findings using the mobile phone after observing the campaign.
This realtime monitoring helped immediately address supply gap. For instance, 11 per cent of facilities which had supply gaps was immediately supplied with additional vitamin A capsules.
Mobilising Youth Power
Like Simsang and Lipi, 380 youth volunteers participated in the campaign.
The latest campaign was not just about feeding the capsules to children. The volunteers also supported in promoting key nutrition practices and have conducted house visits to encourage mothers bring their children for vitamin A.
The youth volunteers alone observed 10,010 children receiving the capsules at 2002 distribution centres across the country. They have been positioned in 21 districts, which are largely low-performing and hard-to-reach areas.
Apart from supporting the Government to further increase coverage of the Vitamin A supplementation with equity in Bangladesh, this has provided the youth an opportunity to learn nutrition program in the field and interact with health officials and community health workers. This engagement has also instilled social responsibility among the youth to serve the country by improving wellbeing of children of Bangladesh
The Government has been supported by UNICEF, NI, GAC, CIFF, BMG and EU
*Line Director, National Nutrition Services (NNS) at IPHN