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Despite political tensions, Nepal vitamin A campaign garners wide support

UNICEF Image: Nepal, Vitamin A
© UNICEF Nepal/2007/Panday
Mothers with young children arrive at the home of Nanda Thapa, a health volunteer in Nepal, to receive vitamin A supplements and de-worming tablets for their children.

by Robin Giri

KATHMANDU, Nepal, 7 November 2007 – In a unique show of support for children’s rights, Nepalese political parties that have been locked in bitter infighting put aside their differences for two days last week to support the national distribution of vitamin A capsules and de-worming tablets.

Some 3.7 million children – ranging in age from six months to five years – received vitamin A supplements as part of the nationwide campaign to protect children’s health by boosting their immune systems.

Across the country, parents brought their children to health clinics, distribution centres and sanctioned private homes to receive the important health interventions.
“We’re here to ensure that our younger brother Dorje receives this vitamin so that he can stay healthy and free from diseases,” said Nima, 12, who had come with his two younger brothers, Pasang and Dorje, on their way to school.

Volunteer-supported campaign

The campaign was supported by Nepal’s Female Community Health Volunteers, who number some 48,000 across the country – mainly in rural areas. These volunteers look after the health and well-being of children and women in their localities.

UNICEF Image: Nepal, Vitamin A
© UNICEF Nepal/2007/Panday
Nima, 12, with his brothers Pasang, 7, and Dorje, 4, received vitamin A supplements in Kathmandu while on their way to school.

“Every mother in the village believes that the vitamin A supplement will make their babies healthier and have already turned up,” said Female Community Health Volunteer Nirmala Khadka, who had made her house available as a distribution centre in Alapot village, on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

“All of this has been made possible by the support from all our partners and the hardworking Female Community Health Volunteers, who take it upon themselves to ensure that all children receive these life saving supplements,” said UNICEF Representative in Nepal Gillian Mellsop. 

Escalating tensions

Nepal has been in the throes of escalating turmoil since early this year. The Constituent Assembly elections, which were scheduled for 22 November, have been indefinitely postponed because of serious differences between the major political parties.

Concerned that this would impact the campaign, UNICEF issued a press release urging all parties to support and facilitate the health campaign. A coalition of 13 Madhesi political parties issued a joint press statement expressing support for significant public health intervention for children.

“UNICEF is most appreciative of this support, as vitamin A capsules are responsible for preventing the deaths of more than 12,000 Nepalese children every year, and protecting another 2,000 from going blind,” said Ms. Mellsop.




7 November 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Anwulika Okafor reports on the recent nationwide child health drive in Nepal.
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