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Make a Difference TodayDonate to HKI

Helen Keller International’s
Vitamin A Supplementation Program

Helen Keller International’s Vitamin A Supplementation provides critical nutrition to at-risk children around the world. “Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections,” per the World Health Organization.

HKI facilitates mass distributions of Vitamin A supplements, helping build healthier communities in the process. Each supplement costs less than US$1 to deliver.

The Problem

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a simple yet devastating health problem. VAD increases the risk of child and maternal mortality, and contributes to preventable blindness and other diseases. The most affected populations are young children and pregnant women in poor regions around the world, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia.

The Solution

HKI’s Vitamin A Supplementation (VAS) programs deliver nutritional supplements to preschool aged children in several ways. Mass distribution campaigns, like National Immunization Days or Child Health Days, integrate VAS into broader campaigns that address a variety of public health issues simultaneously.

HKI also works to create “contact points” where infants can receive VAS when they reach 6 months old, rather than waiting for the next scheduled mass distribution.

You can learn more about VAS here.

How HKI is different from other charities

For over a century, HKI has worked to empower the world’s neediest communities to help themselves. They have evolved their programs over time in response to changing conditions and changing evidence, allowing them to deliver impactful and cost-effective change. You can learn more about HKI’s unique history here.

Why HKI is effective

Cost effectiveness

VAS is considered a highly cost-effective intervention by the world health community. Each supplement costs less than US$1 to distribute.


There is very strong evidence linking Vitamin A deficiency to a variety of negative health outcomes, up to and including death.

Great need

“An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 vitamin A-deficient children become blind every year, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight”World Health Organization, Micronutrient deficiencies

Unique legacy

HKI has worked toward a better world for over a hundred years. In Helen Keller’s words, “The welfare of each is bound up in the welfare of all.”

HKI’s accountability and sustainability

HKI’s VAS program has been named a Standout Charity by GiveWell and receives a four-star charity by Charity Navigator. HKI is also the proud recipient of the 2014 Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership.

In 2012, Helen Keller International President & CEO Kathy Spahn and Board Trustee David Glassman co-authored an article called "Performance Measurement for Nonprofits" for the Journal of Applied Corporate Finance (Volume 24, Number 2, Spring 2012, a Morgan Stanley publication) about the challenges of evaluating non-profit performance and suggestions for improving current practices.

Frequently Asked Questions

How will my donation be used?

HKI provides technical assistance to governments, helping them train workers, monitor and evaluate results, and improve other areas of program design. HKI also advocates with governments to pursue VAS programs and in some cases provides funding to cover a portion of implementation costs.

You can learn more about HKI’s work in these areas here.

How do HKI’s programs increase intake of vitamin A?

GiveWell’s analysis found HKI’s VAS programs may be improving outcomes through the following mechanisms: increasing coverage rates in VAS mass campaigns; preventing coverage losses when transitioning to routine distribution; causing campaigns or other VAS programs to occur; and decreasing the age at which children receive their first vitamin A supplement.

Does Helen Keller International do work besides Vitamin A Supplementation (VAS)?

Yes, HKI runs a variety of programs combating blindness and malnutrition around the world. You can learn more about the full range of HKI’s work here.

However, please note that while we think HKI does a wide range of important work, our recommendation is specifically for their Vitamin A Supplementation programs. GiveWell, a highly selective charity evaluator, specifically recommends HKI’s VAS program as a Standout Charity. In keeping with our own selection process we’re following GiveWell’s lead on this issue. We have therefore asked HKI to use donations made through our site for VAS only, unless explicitly instructed to do otherwise.

Why does The Life You Can Save recommend Helen Keller International's Vitamin A Supplementation program?

We recommend HKI's VAS program because it has been named a Top Charity by GiveWell, a highly respected charity evaluator.  

Is my donation tax-deductible?

Helen Keller International has 501(c)(3) status in the United States, and is tax-deductible for eligible donors. German and Swiss donors can make a deductible gift through Effective Altruism Foundation (use the drop down menu to choose HKI).

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