535 Million – More Than Just a Number
535 million children are at risk for vitamin A deficiency. 535 million.
Vitamin Angels is working hard to make a sizable dent in that number. In 1994, Vitamin Angels’ founder, Howard Schiffer, became aware of the immense need for vitamin A supplementation—and as how inexpensive it is to provide. Reaching one child for one year costs only about 25 cents.
Since then, Vitamin Angels has become a leader in the fight against global malnutrition, creating a healthier world through vitamin supplementation.
This year alone, Vitamin Angels is working to reach 60 million children in 66 countries with vitamins. And while we have a long way to go, we’re grateful that here at Eu Natural, we’re part of the change.
So why vitamin A?
Many low-income families in developing countries rely heavily on starchy staple foods because they are filling and inexpensive. But while foods like rice, potatoes, and corn have enough calories to keep bellies feeling full, they lack the nutritional value that children need as they grow— particularly during their first five years of life when proper nutrition is more important than ever.
Without consistent access to vitamin A-rich foods like dark leafy greens, eggs, and orange fruits and veggies, children have a hard time fighting off disease and illnesses, may become mentally and physically stunted, and can even go blind or die in severe cases.
Vitamin A deficiency is a crippling obstacle to a child’s development—the good news? At-risk children, at-risk children are up to 24 percent more likely to live when they receive just two vitamin A capsules per year.
535 million is a number so large that it seems hard to comprehend. To put it into some context: 535 million is more than the population of Mexico, Canada and the United States combined. But even that doesn’t totally encompass the enormity of the problem and what it means for the families that are affected.
It doesn’t shed light on the families that sacrifice a day’s work to bring their child to a clinic when she is sick. Or the mother who works tirelessly on a farm only to sell the nutritious crops that she harvests. Or the child who has a hard time paying attention in school because his energy levels are so low because the food he eats doesn’t give him the fuel he needs to get through the day.
The Vitamin Angels team has traveled around the world this year, connecting face-to-face with some of these families and their children, bringing back their immense gratitude and the hope they carry with them each day. One thing we’ve learned in our travels is that parents around the world have the same hopes for their children as we do.
They want them to grow up strong and healthy, be educated and empowered to be successful, and find happiness even when the odds are stacked against them.
As one mom told our team this year, “With all the challenges in the world, I just want [my children] to be able to do whatever they want—and know that I’m always here for them.”
To help elevate some of these voices and sentiments, here are two of those stories the Vitamin Angels team brought back from our field visits to Mexico and Uganda this year.
When Flor was pregnant with her daughter, Jocabeth, she learned she was at risk of miscarriage. Although she defied the odds and carried her daughter to term, Jocabeth was skinny as a young child and only wanted to eat bread. It was a scary time for Flor. In Mexico and other parts of Latin America, families typically eat tortillas, beans, and rice—all of which contain very little quality nutritional value.
One day, word spread that a local health organization was bringing a nutritionist to Flor’s village of Guadalupe Cote, Mexico. Flor took a chance. During that first visit, a screening showed that her daughter was in the ‘danger zone’ for malnutrition. The nutritionist provided counseling for Flor, and Jocabeth promptly received her first dose of vitamin A and a deworming tablet, to help rid her body of any intestinal parasites that could be robbing her of the valuable nutrients that she needs.
These days, Jocabeth is an energetic and joyful three-year-old—and big sister! Flor’s second child, 19-month-old Miriam was born free of any complications, and the family is overjoyed to have two happy, active girls. And they’re not the only ones—many of the children in their community are thriving as well.
When Flor saw the improvement in Jocabeth’s health, she started telling her family and friends about the vitamins, and more children began attending the distributions. Over a year has passed since that first distribution, and Flor is pleased that her community has embraced the vitamins.
Sadrak, is a bubbly 18-month-old boy from Uganda who craves the spotlight. According to his mom, Joan, he enjoys spending afternoons watching her and his uncle, Dickens, tend to their garden.
While there may be some friendly competition between Joan and Dickens over who is the better gardener, there’s no denying that the garden, ripe with cassava, soybeans, sweet potatoes, greens, beans, maize and simsim (sesame seeds), is beautiful.
The Vitamin Angels team was pleasantly surprised to learn that the family eats the majority of what is grown—it’s more common for families to sell precious crops and use the income to purchase staple foods like cassava. Sadrak started receiving vitamin A as soon as he was old enough, at six months of age.
He continues to grow more energetic a result of his continued good health and increased appetite. Joan attributes some of the marked difference in Sadrak’s health–in comparison to her five older children—to his access to vitamin A and deworming. Joan told Vitamin Angels she feels “happy and at ease” because Sadrak is so healthy.
With vitamin A, Sadrak will have greater opportunities to grow up strong, to play, to laugh, to learn, and to lead a healthy and productive life.
You have the power to make our world a healthier place. Learn more about Vitamin Angels and make a donation.