Vitamin A supplements give children a healthy start in life

Outreach events in remote villages are providing every child with Vitamin A, boosting their immune systems at an early age

Yoeum Phorn
06 May 2024
Chea Sopheap administers a Vitamin A capsule to a child during an extended community outreach activity to screen children for acute malnutrition
UNICEF Cambodia/2023/Yoeum Phorn

25 December 2023, Takeo – Fourty-four-year-old Mei Ratana says even if health workers didn’t provide outreach services to her village, she would still her take her four-year-old nephew on the 4-kilometer-long journey to the nearest health Centre to make sure he grows healthy and strong. She knows that if Mony Reach misses out on important milestones at the first stages of life, including strengthening his immune system, it might hurt his chances to reach his full potential in the future.  

“I enjoy taking good care of my nephew,” she says. “I have observed that Vitamin A and other health services like vaccinations are helping his health. He never catches serious illnesses.” 

Luckily for her, health workers come to the village to provide essential health services including measuring children's height and weight, providing also Vitamin A supplementation and deworming. They also educate communities about what children need in their earliest years to support their development, recommending breastfeeding right after birth, exclusive breastfeeding until the baby turns six months, and introducing nutritious, vitamin-rich complementary foods when the baby is ready after six months.  

“Vitamin A helps children grow strong, prevents blindness and makes their eyes healthy,” explains Ratana, who usually takes care of four-year-old Kong Chi Mony Reach during the day while his parents are at work. “I prepare food like rice and soup with fish, pork, vegetables and pumpkin, and I have also learned that vitamins can be found in ripe yellow fruits such as mango, papaya, banana, and breastmilk.” 

While caregivers may do their best to give their children nutritious meals, many families in Cambodia may not be able to afford to buy vitamin-rich foods year-round. Vitamin A supplements are a low-cost solution to Vitamin A deficiency, which is a leading cause of preventable childhood blindness and increases the risk of death from common childhood illnesses such as measles and diarrhea. Across the country, 64 per cent of children have been reported receiving Vitamin A, MoH-HIS-2023 while other 36% of children aged 6-59 months not fully receive Vitamin A during the year.   

Ratana lives in Sei Ma village in Oudam Soriya commune, which is more than 20 kilometers from Takeo provincial town. She said she learned about the outreach event from community health volunteers from her local Village Health Support Group (VHSG).