Micro but Mighty: How Vitamin A Saves Lives [Photo Essay]
Vitamin A is a powerhouse micronutrient that builds healthy immune systems and protects children from blindness and serious illnesses. Helen Keller is at work in places where children’s diets are deficient in vitamin A. Giving children high-dose vitamin A supplements every six months can save their lives. Evidence shows that supplementation of this kind can reduce childhood deaths by as much as a quarter. In seven countries in Africa – Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria – health workers deliver vitamin A during large-scale campaigns. In an additional four countries – Cameroon, Mozambique, Senegal, and Sierra Leone – health clinics and health workers include vitamin A supplementation as part of an essential package of routine services for children. COVID-19 resulted in the delay of large-scale vitamin A supplementation for safety reasons. We grappled with a heart-breaking dilemma: what if we prevented coronavirus but cost children their lives? We knew we MUST resume vitamin A supplementation programs quickly. In summer 2020, we added essential COVID safety measures and pivoted from en masse to house-to-house delivery. Having several “arrows in our quiver” helps address vitamin A deficiency at its root. Methods include: vitamin A supplementation, agricultural and nutrition education programs, development of vitamin-fortified foods, and support for breastfeeding women. Our agricultural programs help communities to access more diverse, nutrient-rich foods. For example, families Helen Keller works with in Asia and Africa now grow and eat orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, which are packed with vitamin A. Breastfeeding provides vital micronutrients – including vitamin A – that help infants develop strong immune systems. Mother-to-mother groups provide safe spaces to get support, advice, and encouragement. Helen Keller also helps fortify commonly consumed foods, such as cooking oil and flour, with essential micronutrients including vitamin A. The positive impact of increased vitamin A is profound: less preventable blindness, fewer deaths, and better health. This mighty micronutrient has the power to transform children’s lives, so that all have the chance to reach their full potential.
Thanks to a global community of donors, millions of children receive life-saving vitamin A every year. Click through our photo essay to learn more about this mighty micronutrient and how we are helping to improve children’s health and well-being by increasing their vitamin A intake.
Slides 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 12: Ruth Fertig/Helen Keller Intl Slides 2, 3, 6: Veronica Wijaya/Helen Keller Intl Slide 7: Lameck Ododo/Helen Keller Intl Slide 11: Helen Keller Intl (Mozambique)