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Helen Keller International and UNICEF team up for children

NEW YORK, 27 APRIL 2005 - Helen Keller International (HKI) and UNICEF are joining forces to combat malnutrition and blindness in children, two of poverty’s most tragic health consequences.

The cooperation will strengthen the reach of both agencies toward their common goal of reducing the global toll of child malnutrition, which includes eliminating micronutrient deficiencies.  Currently, one third of the world’s children are malnourished, deprived of the minimum quantities of nutrients they need to safeguard their health and lives.

The agreement also increases collaboration on projects to prevent and treat child blindness and rehabilitate blind children.

Joint projects between UNICEF and HKI will support child nutrition programs and will alleviate the suffering caused by childhood blindness, trachoma, onchocerciasis (river blindness), and cataracts.  Building the capacity of governments, health systems, and communities to recognize and treat these problems will be a major joint focus.

One of the most far-reaching and immediate cooperative efforts of this partnership will be a drive to bring vitamin A supplements to children in nine African countries over the next three years, thanks to a recent grant by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).  Vitamin A is critical for building strong immune systems during childhood.  In poor communities, vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness in children and seriously increase their risk of dying from childhood illnesses like measles or diarrhoea.

For both agencies, ensuring that every child is healthy and well-nourished lies at the center of their mandates. Helen Keller International is a leading nonprofit organization that combats the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition through programs in twenty-five countries. UNICEF has a permanent presence in 157 of the world’s poorest countries, supporting deprived children with special feeding and micronutrients, promoting maternal and newborn health through ante- and post-natal care, and advocating for exclusive breastfeeding.  UNICEF also works with governments for the protection of children’s nutrition rights through strong national laws and policies.

Mr. Kul Gautam, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, welcomed the strengthened collaboration between the agencies, saying, “This link with HKI will help us to go further than before in bringing the benefits of good nutrition and healthcare to the most deprived children.”

Ms. Kathy Spahn, HKI's President and CEO expressed her enthusiasm for the agreement, stating, "We are delighted to build upon the numerous productive programs we have in partnership with UNICEF with this new Global Memorandum of Understanding. The MOU will expedite future collaborations, which means that our staff in the field will be able to reach children in need more quickly with essential health services."

For more information please contact:

Katie Haxall, Helen Keller International, +212-532-0544 ext 818, khaxall@hki.org
Claire Hajaj, UNICEF New York, +1 212 326 7566, chajaj@unicef.org

Founded in 1915, Helen Keller International's mission is to save the sight and lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. HKI combats the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition by establishing programs based on evidence and research in vision, health, and nutrition. HKI strives to be the most scientifically competent organization in improving vision and nutrition in the world. HKI programs combat malnutrition, poverty, cataract, trachoma, onchocerciasis (river blindness), and refractive error.

Since 1946 UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working in 157 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.




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