Vitamin A campaign reaches 20.8mn children in Bangladesh: UNICEF

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Dhaka, Dec 23: The National Vitamin A plus campaign in Bangladesh has reached 20.8 million children aged between 6 months and 5 years with the important immunity boosting supplement, UNICEF said Wednesday.

The two-week campaign, which took place in October, reached 97 percent of the target, despite challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The campaign coverage was officially verified and released by the Directorate General of Health Services, National Nutrition Services and Institute of Public Health Nutrition on December 14, 2020.

“This is a very important win for children in Bangladesh. The campaign was adapted to ensure safety for health workers, children and parents while achieving remarkable coverage,” said Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh.

The Vitamin A campaign was conducted by the Government of Bangladesh with support from UNICEF, which helped develop guidelines and communications materials to ensure a safe roll-out in the context of COVID-19.

In addition, UNICEF provided 360,000 masks for health workers and volunteers.

This year’s campaign was held over 12 days instead of the usual one-day campaign to avoid large gatherings.

Over 120,000 distribution centres supported the campaign, with health workers and volunteers ensuring infection prevention control practices, including appropriate mask use, physical distancing and handwashing facilities for parents and children.

The Government has institutionalised real-time monitoring and reporting for the National Vitamin A Plus Campaign using mobile phones to report campaign operations.

Over 1,450 monitors visited 14,000 distribution centres during the campaign to track coverage against targets, analysing and sharing key findings on a daily basis.

The information was used to instantly address challenges and improve coverage.

If one health centre faced supply shortages, the required supplies were dispatched immediately from the nearest facility.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact lives and livelihoods, threatening national progress on reducing malnutrition over the last two decades, with children under five and women of reproductive age most at risk.

Vitamin A is critical to strengthening children’s immune system and reducing susceptibility to infections.

“UNICEF is committed to supporting the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that parents can continue to receive nutrition services for their children. We must take robust action to ensure that hard-won development gains are not undone and that no child is left behind,” Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh.