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Vitamin A Deficiency

For people in the United States, Canada, Europe and other wealthy countries, Vitamin A deficiency is relatively unknown. Our foods are vitamin enriched, vitamin supplements are readily available, and our diets contain green leafy and yellow vegetables that contain ample amounts of vitamin A. On a global scale, this abundance is sadly absent. Currently, 118 countries, primarily in Africa and Southeast Asia, live with an epidemic of preventable blindness. As with many diseases, the hardest toll is born by children.

A worldwide campaign is underway to eliminate Vitamin A deficiency. Led by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and many private organizations such as Helen Keller Worldwide, Vitamin A is delivered to millions of children to prevent blindness and to promote vision, bone growth, and development of the immune system. Specially formulated capsules in a dosage that would be toxic in our vitamin-rich diet are administered once or twice a year usually at the same time a child is immunized. Receiving the high dosage Vitamin A capsule prevents blindness and bolsters the child's immune system.

These simple, high-benefit programs have produced remarkable results. In some countries, mortality among children has been reduced by 23% and by up to 50% for children who are acute measles sufferers. While long term solutions such as food fortification and home gardens are needed to eliminate the cause of Vitamin A deficiency, high dosage supplementation is extremely effective in reversing the tide of childhood blindness.

The cost of a high dosage Vitamin A capsule is approximately 5 cents per child per year. Of course other costs are involved with delivering the vitamins to children worldwide but it is easy to see that small gestures of millions of people can make an important and substantial difference in the eyes of the children of the world and their families.

 

 

Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children with an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 children-losing sight every year. Half of these children will die within twelve months of going blind. Every minute of every day of every year, one child goes blind due to vitamin A deficiency.

In addition to causing blindness, Vitamin A deficiency raises the risk of serious illness and even death from common childhood infections such as measles and diarrhea. The health impact on the 100 million to 140 million children suffering from Vitamin A deficiency is immeasurable.

     

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