When COVID-19 first swept the globe, much of daily life came to an indefinite stop. Basic health services were disrupted, food was more expensive and less available, and livelihood opportunities dwindled resulting in a tidal wave of hunger among children and their families. Yet, Helen Keller found ways to adapt and adjust critical programs and services to COVID’s threat and made positive headway in the protracted fight against malnutrition in Africa.
Vitamin A is a crucial micronutrient
For years, Helen Keller has partnered with local caregivers in Kenya to provide vitamin A supplements to children. A superpower for children’s sight and health, Vitamin A is instrumental in developing clear vision and a healthy immune system. Research even shows that providing doses of vitamin A supplementation twice a year to children from six months to five years of age can reduce child mortality by nearly 25%.
Traversing long distances to bring doses to children
Among those working tirelessly to ensure children have access to good nutrition is Esther Njeri, a programs manager with Helen Keller. According to Esther, who oversees Vitamin A supplementation in six counties in Western Kenya, “in most homesteads the caregivers do not know that after their children reach 9 months after their immunization, the children also need to continue their Vitamin A supplementation.” In addition to spreading awareness of the critical importance of Vitamin A, Esther oversees mass supplementation campaigns, some of which traverse many kilometers to bring doses to children who are unable to make the commute.
Expanding care across generations
These programs work. Through Helen Keller’s work, vitamin A coverage – which normally hovers around 20% – expands exponentially to 80%. Esther finds immense satisfaction in this work: “I am particularly moved when I visit a household during the campaign and I can see the mothers, fathers, caregivers, grandparents, siblings, run around to make sure they call all the children who are under 5 years to come and receive the vitamin A supplementation.”