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Early Childhood

Saving lives in Nepal through vitamin A distribution

© UNICEF Nepal/2005
Moti Bhandari, a Female Community Health Volunteer, administers a vitamin A capsule to a young boy.

By Rupa Joshi

KATHMANDU, Nepal, 29 November 2005 – Moti Bhandari looks into the mirror and adds the finishing touches to her make-up: a big red mark with the logo of a vitamin A campaign on her forehead.  She then slings her green cloth bag with the same logo across her shoulders, calls out to her 9-year-old daughter Sarita to mind the store, and heads for the vitamin A distribution centre with her 2-year-old son in tow. 

The centre is very close to her home which lies near Mount Machhapuchhre in central Nepal. By the time Moti and her son arrive to the distribution centre villagers are already beginning to trickle in. Grandparents, uncles and aunts, older siblings – all have come in today with young children under five for the town’s bi-annual dose of vitamin A drops and de-worming tablets. 

© UNICEF Nepal/2005
Vitamin A is essential for the functioning of the immune system, increasing children’s resistance to disease.

Alerting Nepalese villagers of an upcoming vitamin A distribution

Several weeks before the distribution days Moti, along with 28 other ‘Female Community Health Volunteers’ (FCHVs) alerted the village about the upcoming vitamin A distribution. There are some 49,000 FCHVs across Nepal. “Except for a couple of far-flung households, I did not even have to visit every home,” says Moti. “I informed them as they came to my store, or as we waited at the communal water point to fetch water, or washed clothes.”

As an FCHV Moti looks after the health and well-being of her community’s mothers and children. She also monitors who needs to receive the drops.  

Moti took care to alert everyone. She even went to the local school where a magician hired by a UNICEF partner organization, the Nepali Technical Assistance Group, performed a play explaining the importance of vitamin A. 

Vitamin A is essential for the functioning of the immune system. Giving vitamin A supplements to children increases their resistance to disease and improves their chances for survival, growth and development.

Moti reminded the wide-eyed children to have their parents take their younger siblings to the distribution. She also spoke with the elderly village crier asking him to shout out a final reminder to villagers early the next morning.

© UNICEF Nepal/2005
In a country where child mortality remains high, vitamin A supplements are believed to have saved the lives of the estimated 12,000 Nepali babies who die each year from a variety illnesses.

Helping save lives with vitamin A distribution

On the day of the distribution Moti and her colleagues set up a stand in the town centre and delivered the drops and de-worming tablets to the children, including her own son Sandesh. She coordinated the registration and ensured that parents saw the ‘show and tell’ table on which various vitamin-rich vegetables and fruits were displayed.

This distribution was the 25th round of vitamin A distribution in Nepal over a span of a dozen years. An estimated 3.6 million children – 90 per cent of the target population – were given the potentially life-saving drops. 

In a country where child mortality remains very high the drops are believed to have saved the lives of the estimated 12,000 Nepali babies who die each year from a variety of diseases.

Sabine Dolan contributed to this report from New York.





29 November 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Rupa Joshi reports on vitamin A distribution in a remote Nepalese village.

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