Helen Keller battles blindness with vitamin A supplementation in Sierra Leone

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Vitamin a

70% of children die within a year of going blind in developing countries. Vitamin A deficiency is a prime factor
70% of children die within a year of going blind in developing countries. Vitamin A deficiency is a prime factor
The Seeing Is Believing and Helen Keller International foundations, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, are making vitamin A dietary interventions in Sierra Leone to battle blindess among children.

The campaign, launched by the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Sia Nyama Koroma, is part of a HKI project to deliver vitamin A to more than one million children in seven countries in Africa and Asia.

The groups will also provide support to the Ministry’s efforts to develop a broader strategy to boost vitamin A levels.

It is estimated 500,000 children go blind in developing countries each year due to nutrient deficiencies, 70% of whom die within a year of going blind.

Seeing Is Believing said the mortality rate can be reduced by more than 30% in children up to five-years-old, if vitamin A deficiencies can be addressed.

The group said 127 million pre-school children and seven million pregnant women in the developing world suffer from vitamin A deficiency, but other estimates pout the figure as high as 500m.

It aims to provide 1.22m children with vitamin A supplementation twice a year for three years in Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines and Nigeria.

Beyond sight

A 2010 Cochrane review of 43 randomized trials, representing more than 200,000 children aged six months to five years found vitamin A​ supplementation is effective in reducing all-cause mortality by 24 percent, mainly via a reduced occurrence of measles​ and diarrhea​.

“More than 190 million children are vitamin A deficient around the globe; reducing their risk of mortality by 24 percent could save almost 1 million lives per year,”​ said the researchers, led by Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta, Chairman of the Division of Women and Child Health at Aga Khan University, Pakistan.

Other groups championing nutrient supplementation include Vitamin Angels which works with suppliers like DSM on nutrient-boosting projects such as that in Sierra Leone.

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