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More Countries Giving Children Doses Of Illness-Fighting Vitamin A

Thu., June 8, 1995

More developing countries are giving children vitamin A, a move that could prevent between 1 million and 3 million child deaths a year, a UNICEF report says.

Since 1990, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam have eliminated severe vitamin A deficiency, according to UNICEF’s annual report on the state of the world’s children.

Brazil, India, Botswana and other countries are moving to give 80 percent of children younger than 2 adequate vitamin A levels by the end of the year.

Worldwide, about 200 million children under age 5 are vitamin A-deficient - a condition signaled by a milky patch in the eye. Severe deficiency causes blindness and death. Moderate deficiency impairs the immune system, making common illnesses such as diarrhea and measles more fatal.

In Indonesia, Dr. Albert Sommer, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, found that giving children massive doses of vitamin A twice a year reduced their mortality rate by one-third.

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