A tiny investment with an immense impact
NORTH OKKALAPA, Myanmar, 27 October 2005 – In North Okkalapa Township outside Myanmar’s capitol city of Yangon, health workers visit the home of mother Aye Aye Thwe to make sure her child receives a free dose of vitamin A being provided by UNICEF. Local health staff have helped her learn about the benefits for her child.
“By taking vitamin A, my child will grow well, and be more active,” she says. “Vitamin A will also protect my child from illness, and even when he falls ill, the illness won’t last as long – he’ll recover more easily.”
As Aye Aye Thwe nestles her child in her arms, a midwife gently pinches her child’s cheeks and squeezes a few drops from a vitamin A capsule into his mouth.
Just a few golden drops of vitamin A in the child’s mouth will make an enormous difference in his life. Children who receive enough vitamin A have better eyesight, and are better able to stave off infections and illnesses.
Less than a decade ago, thousands of children in Myanmar were falling victim to blindness and vision impairment because they weren’t receiving enough vitamin A in their diets. Thanks to a strong commitment from UNICEF and its health partners in Myanmar, very few children continue suffer the worst ravages of vitamin A deficiency today.
The best source of vitamin A is a diet rich in leafy green vegetables, eggs and other vitamin A-rich foods. UNICEF supports health education programs that help parents learn about the nutrients their children need.
In many parts of Myanmar, however, the lack of diversity in children’s diets results in many not receiving sufficient amounts of vitamin A through the meals they eat. In such circumstances, vitamin A supplementation is an effective and important alternative to protect children’s health.
“Our work to provide children across Myanmar with vitamin A has been an extremely successful public health initiative,” says UNICEF Nutrition Project Officer Dr. Tin Maung Chit. “UNICEF is working closely with its health counterparts and other organizations to virtually eliminate vitamin A deficiency in a not-too-distant future.”
Today in Myanmar, UNICEF works to ensure that approximately 90 percent of children in every State and Division in the country receive regular, high-dose vitamin A supplements during their first five years of life. UNICEF supplies nearly all of the vitamin A capsules in Myanmar, and in 2005 alone it has provided over five million children between six months and five years of age with vitamin A.
Mother Ohnmar Win appreciates the benefits her one-year old daughter Thet Mon Thaw will reap from her dose of vitamin A.
“She’ll have good eyesight, and the vitamin A will prevent illness,” she says.
Little Thet Mon Thaw doesn’t initially share her mother’s enthusiasm. She wiggles and squirms as Midwife Moe Pa Pa tries to squeeze a few vitamin A drops in her mouth. Her mood quickly changes when the drops hit her tongue. The squeals stop, and a smile breaks out on her face as she claps her hands. Her mother smiles too, knowing her daughter will be healthier in the future.
Thanks to the efforts of UNICEF and its counterparts, blindness caused by vitamin A deficiency is a rarity today. Nevertheless, even less severe forms of vitamin A deficiency can exacerbate the effects of measles, malaria, diarrhea and anemia, which all pose significant threats to children’s health in Myanmar. In areas where vitamin a deficiency is still prevalent, child mortality rates remain significantly higher.
While current efforts have resulted in the worst manifestations of vitamin A deficiency being virtually eliminated in Myanmar, these efforts must continue to ensure that future generations of Myanmar’s children are also protected. UNICEF in Myanmar requires US$ 150,000 over the next five years to ensure that children throughout the country continue to be protected against vitamin A deficiency.
For further information please contact: