Saving Lives with Vitamin A

By Million Moms Challenge

Nov 25, 2011 6:55pm

By: SYDNEY KUMP

Nearly all of the children in Burkina Faso are malnourished, but not only are they not getting enough calories, they’re not getting enough Vitamin A.

Last March, Dr. Besser traveled to a small village in Africa to witness first-hand an innovative program working to combat this form of malnutrition.

Around the world, 127 million pre-school children and 7 million pregnant women are Vitamin A deficient, also the number one cause of preventable blindness among children in developing countries.

“It’s a huge cause of children’s death because it doesn’t just weaken your vision–it weakens your entire immune system,” Shawn Baker, Vice President and Regional Director for Africa for Helen Keller International, told ABC News. “If you can correct that deficiency you can reduce the death rate of kids by about 23% which is huge–it’s the biggest intervention in public health that you can imagine.”

And within the small nation of Burkina Faso, change is in the air…or better yet, in the food.

The World Health Organization, HarvestPlus, and Helen Keller International, are working together to get the orange fleshed sweet potato, rich with beta-carotene, onto dinner tables of families with Vitamin A deficiency.

Mothers are familiar with vitamin A, from the capsules routinely given to children in the health centers of the West African nation.The pills cost just pennies—a small price to pay to save a child’s life.

“I think anybody in America could participate in these approaches. They’re a lot of good agencies out there doing very good work like this. It’s just some donations, routine donations, to keep these programs going.” Baker told ABC News.

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