The Ministry of Health (MoH), in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government and other stakeholders, has embarked on a Vitamin A supplementation campaign.
The Director of Public Health, Ms Shenaaz El Halabi, said Vitamin A supplementation has been shown to significantly contribute to the reduction in child mortality.
She said that improving vitamin A status of children, through supplementation, enhances their resistance to disease and can reduce mortality from all causes by approximately 25%, death from measles by 50% and death from diarrhoea by 40%.
“Vitamin A capsules will be administered at all public health facilities and additionally designated points as determined by District Management,” she said.
Parents, guardians and caretakers were encouraged to bring children, aged between 6 months and under five to the nearest distribution points for this service. She also added that a child’s clinical card is required for recording.
“I therefore call upon the public and the health workers to maintain the momentum created by this campaign by ensuring that children get two doses of Vitamin A every year,” she said.┬á
The UNICEF representative, Mr. Marcus Betts, outlined two national campaigns, one of the ongoing Vitamin A supplementation and the other of the joint Measles/Vitamin A campaign in November 2009.
Betts said that Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) has been recognized as the leading cause of preventable paediatric blindness in developing countries.
Manifestations of VAD can be external (clinical eye signs) but, in most cases, it is non external, thus may seem to be invisible and so, he said, we also talk about hidden malnutrition.┬á
Betts said that Overall VAD, which includes external eye-related and non external signs, is estimated at 127 million preschool children, most of them living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.┬á
He added that most children do not show external signs of vitamin A deficiency but live with dangerously low vitamin A stores, leaving them highly vulnerable to infection and with reduced immunity to fight common childhood diseases. He added that Vitamin A Deficiency is a major contributor to the mortality of children under five, indicating that vitamin A programming is a prerequisite for achieving MDG 4, particularly in countries with high under-five mortality and/or vitamin A deficiency rates.
“UNICEF Botswana would like to acknowledge and thank the Ministry of Health for its continued commitment and efforts to accelerate Vitamin A Supplementation for children between 6 and 59 months in order to improve Child Survival in Botswana,” Betts said.
The campaign started on June 1 and will run until June 7th, 2009.