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Myanmar, Republic of the Union of

Myanmar: 5 million children get supplemental vitamin A to preserve vision and protect health

© UNICEF Myanmar/2005/Thame
In 2005, UNICEF Myanmar has provided more than 5 million children with vitamin A supplements – saving lives and preserving children’s vision.

By Jason Rush

OKKALAPA, Myanmar, 27 October 2005 – In this township outside Myanmar’s capital Yangon, health workers visit the home of Aye Aye Thwe, and give her child a free dose of vitamin A. As Aye Aye Thwe nestles her child in her arms, a midwife gently pinches the boy’s cheeks and squeezes a few drops from a vitamin A capsule into his mouth.

Less than a decade ago, thousands of children in Myanmar fell victim each year to vision impairment or blindness because of vitamin A deficiency. Now UNICEF is working to remedy this situation and allow Myanmar’s children to grow up with normal vision.

Just a few golden drops of vitamin A will make an enormous difference in a child’s life. “Vitamin A will protect my child from illness, and even when he falls ill, the illness won’t last as long – he’ll recover more easily,” said Aye Aye Thwe. “Vitamin A also gives children good eyesight, and helps prevent blurred vision and night blindness.”

In 2005, UNICEF and partners have provided more than 5 million children in this country with the life-saving supplement. Today, very few children suffer the worst ravages of vitamin A deficiency.

© UNICEF Myanmar/2005/Thame
Midwife Moe Pa Pa gives Aye Aye Thwe’s son his first dose of vitamin A.

“Our work to provide children across Myanmar with vitamin A has been an extremely successful public health initiative,” says Dr. Tin Maung Chit, UNICEF Nutrition Project Officer. “UNICEF is working closely with health counterparts and other organizations to virtually eliminate vitamin A deficiency in the not-too-distant future.”

Balanced diet is best

The best source of vitamin A is a diet rich in leafy green vegetables and eggs. But in many parts of Myanmar children’s diets are lacking in diversity – resulting in vitamin deficiency. Health workers travel door-to-door to provide supplemental vitamin A for children, even those living in remote villages. The workers also educate parents on how to give their children a healthy and balanced diet.

Ohnmar Win, mother of one-year-old Thet Mon Thaw, appreciates the benefits her daughter 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. But her mood quickly changes as soon as 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.

Today UNICEF supplies nearly all of the vitamin A capsules in Myanmar. To continue the effort, the agency needs $150,000 over the next five years to ensure the next generation grows up strong and healthy.




27 October 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Jane O’Brien reports on the organization’s effort to reach every child in Myanmar with essential vitamin A.

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