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(Preventing Vitamin A Deficiency (Part 1) )


What is Vitamin A Deficiency?


Vitamins are present in food. There are lots of different types of vitamins and the body needs them if it is to grow and work properly. Vitamin A is a very important one. Some foods have a lot of Vitamin A in them, whilst others don’t. If someone’s body does not have enough Vitamin A, we say that they are Vitamin A deficient. This happens if the person doesn’t eat enough of the foods with lots of Vitamin A, which the body needs. This is most likely to happen in children, because their bodies are growing fast.


Why is Vitamin A deficiency dangerous?

Vitamin A deficiency is dangerous because it makes children’s bodies less able to fight off illnesses, such as diarrhoea and measles. Children with Vitamin A deficiency are more likely to become ill if they get one of the three most common illnesses and it may even kill the child.

It is possible to be Vitamin A deficient without knowing it, so it is very important that everyone, especially children, eat plenty of the foods which contain a lot of Vitamin A. Severe Vitamin A deficiency can damage eyes and can cause permanent blindness if the child’s body has very little Vitamin A.


What foods contain a lot of Vitamin A?


Breast milk contains lots of Vitamin A. Although children become too old to receive milk from their mother it is essential that they appreciate the advantages such a natural food will give their younger brothers and sisters. Young girls, who will one day, become mothers’ need to know the benefits of feeding their children naturally. It is best for any child if they can receive milk from their mother for at least the first six to nine months of the life.

ALL dark green leaves contain Vitamin A, so do most yellow, orange or red fruits and vegetables. So, try to feed young children as much:

·        red palm oil

·        mangoes

·        papayas/pawpaws

·        yellow sweet potatoes

·        liver

·        the yolk of eggs


ALL of these contain good supplies of Vitamin A. An exercise that helps young people remember where they can get Vitamin A is to ask them to draw and name the fruits and vegetables they should eat.


How do we know if we have Vitamin A deficiency?


Even when we are in a darkened room most of us can see something. A person suffering from NIGHT BLINDNESS will not be able to see anything. They will bump into things and will not be able to see even an essential thing such as a plate of food.

The same will happen at night, when most people can see enough to walk around by the light of the moon and the stars, but the night blind child will not be able to see where they are going. Vitamin A deficiency is not always bad enough to cause night blindness and some children have no easy way of knowing that they have night blindness. An example of this would be a very young child who is not yet able to walk. They have what is known as ‘hidden vitamin A deficiency’. They are still more likely to become ill from common illnesses such as diarrhoea, a cough or a fever. They need to eat more food with lots of vitamin A and might be helped by being given tablets with vitamin A in them.

Sometimes when a health visitor visits a village or community to see whether s lot of people have ‘hidden vitamin A deficiency’ they will need to test their blood to see how much vitamin A is in it does this. If a lot of children have ‘hidden vitamin A deficiency’, then the health worker will give all the children medicines with vitamin A in them every 4 to 6 months and tell them to eat more foods with vitamin A in them.


To come

What can we do to stop Vitamin A deficiency?

What do you do if you have limited supplies of food with Vitamin A in it?

What can we do for people with night blindness?

Some games to play to encourage Vitamin A awareness amongst the young.

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