Tuesday, December 30, 2003

People urged to consume food rich in Vitamin A

People urged to consume food rich in Vitamin A

By Our Staff Reporter
KARACHI, Dec 29: Two surveys carried out about five years ago in the North West Frontier Province and Karachi suggested that up to 35 per cent of the Pakistani children suffered from Vitamin A deficiency.

The National Nutrition Survey carried out last year, on the other hand, indicated that the percentage of children suffering from Vitamin A deficiency was now 11 per cent.

This means that the only intervention vis-a-vis Vitamin A supplementation is paying dividends. However, there is a catch here. The government's Vitamin A supplementation initiative, in which doses of the vitamin are administered to the children as part of the National Immunization Drives (NIDs), is likely to be discontinued once polio is eradicated.

There is, therefore, a need for the people to change their dietary habits and use as much as possible foods rich in Vitamin A. These included vegetables having green leaves as well as fruits and vegetables that are either yellow or red in colour.

This was stated by some experts at a Vitamin A Advocacy meeting, organized by an NGO called Hope, in collaboration with the Unicef. They said deficiency of Vitamin could lead to night blindness, besides enhancement in vulnerability to all kinds of ailments.

Dr Mubina Agboatwalla, on the occasion, said between 100 and 140 million children were Vitamin A deficient. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 children become blind due to this problem.

And 260 million children worldwide have some degree of Vitamin A deficiency. The impact of this single supplementation on childhood mortality was as great if not more than that of any one vaccine, and it cost only a couple of cents a dose, she said.

Dr Aisha Mehnaz of the Pakistan Paediatric Association said the deficiency led to decrease of a person's immunity. As a result, the children's vulnerability to diarrhoea, pneumonia and measles increases.

She spoke at length about the long-term and short-term strategies for combating Vitamin A deficiency. Prof D.S. Akram said the government was considering at least two options under which Vitamin A supplementation could continue after the discontinuation of the NIDs. She also dilated on the issue of breast feeding.

Ali Nawaz Sheikh said the health department was ready to hold mass awareness campaign on Vitamin A supplementation. Well-known sports and showbiz personalities - Samiullah, Anwar Maqsood and Shafi Mohammad Shah also spoke.

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Pakistan Science and Engineering Forum (R)
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