Eye institute’s offer has no takers in the Health Department

Research done by the Division of Community Studies, National Institute of Nutrition, and the Biophysics Division of Micronutrient Research (ICMR) has brought to light that Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is contributing to 24 per cent of morbidity and mortality in children.

However, the Department of Health and Family Welfare is ignorant of VAD and has stopped distributing Vitamin A to children in the State for the last two years.

VAD has been recognised to be a major controllable public health and nutritional problem in children less than 60 months of age. It has been found that an effective coverage threshold of 70 per cent with two annual doses of Vitamin A among 6-59 months old children will reduce mortality rate. VAD is the single most important cause of severe visual impairment and blindness in Indian children.

UNICEF and WHO have already declared that 64 per cent of Indian children have VAD and that India is severe VAD country. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, has issued a policy note on Vitamin A and IFA supplementation.

However, the State Health and Family Welfare Department has not responded to the programme initiated by some NGOs in this direction.

For example, Goutami Eye Institute, a registered not-for-profit organisation located in Rajahmundry, has proposed to supply Vitamin A in the form of capsules along with deworming agent biannually for children in the 6-59 months age group in the State with the support of an international organisation, Vitamin Angels.

The eye institute has also expressed its readiness to provide technical assistance and training to trainers of health staff and ICDS workers in this direction.

In the first phase, the eye institute has proposed to take up this as a pilot project in East and West Godavari districts and scale up the programme to cover the State in phases.

According to K. Madhu, executive director of the eye institute, Vitamin A is a micronutrient essential for proper immune function and maintenance of structural integrity of cells.

Cellular structure and functioning of the immune system are vital body defences for reducing the effects of infectious diseases causing death or disease.

He says that VAD is a major contributing cause of death and sickness among children below 5 years. Vitamin A supplementation alone reduces under-five child mortality by about 24 per cent.

  • In first phase, the institute has proposed to take up this as a pilot project in Godavari districts

  • ‘Vitamin A is a micronutrient essential for proper immune function’