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UNICEF and Ministry of Health launch national vitamin A supplementation and de-worming campaign in Tajikistan

DUSHANBE, TAJIKISTAN 12 June 2009 – The ten-day national campaign on vitamin A supplementation and de-worming among children in Tajikistan has been launched by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF this week.

Health and nutrition are very closely linked. Malnutrition makes children more vulnerable to infections, and consequently, more likely to die from diseases. Severe malnutrition increases the incidence and severity of infectious diseases suffered by young children. Death rates among children who are severely malnourished are about six times greater than among those who are well-nourished. The provision of high-dose supplements of vitamin A has a dramatic impact on the health of young children, reducing the risk of mortality by up to 23 per cent.

“In Tajikistan, more than one-third of children suffer from chronic malnutrition,” said Ms. Hongwei Gao, UNICEF Country Representative in Tajikistan. “During this campaign about one million children aged six months to six years will be provided with life-saving vitamin A capsules. In addition, more than 700,000 children aged two to six years will receive de-worming tablets.”

Mr. Azam Mirzoev, Deputy Health Minister, said: “Supplementation with vitamin A and de-worming will help boost children’s immune resistance to infections and diseases. Vitamin A is essential for vision, immune system functions and the survival, growth and development of children.”

UNICEF has been supporting bi-annual vitamin A supplementation campaigns in Tajikistan since 2003. The new strategy, the National Vitamin A Plus Campaign, is used to deliver additional services to children, including de-worming tablets and the promotion of better child feeding practices.

De-worming is a relatively low-cost intervention that contributes to anaemia prevention among young children and increases their absorption of vitamin A. De-worming also helps save the vitamins and micronutrients which are frequently lost to children through worm infections.

“Today in Tajikistan malnutrition threatens children’s survival, health and development,” added Ms. Hongwei Gao. “Nearly 27 per cent of children in the country are stunted. In addition, 26 per cent of children suffer from vitamin A deficiency and 39 per cent from anaemia. The global economic crisis is aggravating the already difficult situation by affecting children’s diets. In this situation, UNICEF calls for increased attention and additional measures to support health and nutrition of children in the country.”

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, 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.

For more information, please contact:
Alexander Sodiqov, UNICEF Tajikistan Communication Officer
Tel +992 48 701 14 89/701 14 90
Email: asodiqov@unicef.org




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