Chris Hortinela Associate Director of Sustainability Vitamin Angels
At Vitamin Angels, we believe that every child deserves the chance to reach their full potential. Yet, undernutrition causes 45% of deaths in children under 5 globally. That’s why we work to strengthen, extend, and amplify the impact of our partner organizations working to reach the most nutritionally vulnerable groups – women, children, and infants. We do this by delivering evidence-based interventions and offering technical assistance, including ongoing monitoring and evaluation, to ensure program quality, scale, and impact.
Specifically, our vitamin A program focuses on increasing access to vitamin A supplementation for children under 5. For infants and young children whose minds and bodies are rapidly growing and developing, this vitamin is essential. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness, complete blindness, as well as weakened immune systems making it harder for children to fight off life-threatening illnesses. Vitamin A is not produced by the body, so it must be consumed in food or supplement form.
For decades organizations like the WHO and UNICEF have promoted vitamin A supplementation as an effective and proven preventative approach that can save lives.
While supplementation addresses the immediate need, the root issue of barriers to accessing proper nutrition for vulnerable communities must also be addressed. At Vitamin Angels, we’ve seen the power of public and private partnerships play an instrumental role in addressing these barriers and creating sustainable change around the world. But how?
Collaborations between the private and public sectors, ministries of health, local NGOs, and international NGOs can tackle the various barriers to nutrition from multiple angles through initiatives such as education, evidence based nutrition interventions, implementation research, awareness raising and policy advocacy.
Take Vitamin Angels’ work in India, for example. India has the largest number of children experiencing vitamin A deficiency around the world, which has contributed to about 330,000 deaths annually in the country.
In 2005, only 7% of children in the state of Nagaland received vitamin A supplementation. Vitamin Angels began partnering with local government and civil societies in Nagaland, India to deliver vitamin A capsules, reaching more children than had previously been possible. The collaboration between Vitamin Angels, private sector partners, the government, and local organizations helped address coverage gaps. As of 2019, the number of children covered in the region has reached 70%.
While there is still much work to be done – the success we’ve seen in Nagaland, India is proof that the power of partnerships and a multi-stakeholder approach to fulfilling the SDGs can positively impact the lives of billions around the globe by creating sustainable change.
As part of Focus on Child Eye Health, a piece on Vitamin Angels work on addressing Vitamin A supplementation. Focus on Child Eye Health engages some of the world’s best and brightest thought leaders throughout the year to share knowledge, inspire action, discuss ideas and push Child Eye Health to the forefront of pressing development issues. It is supported by CooperVision.