Helen Keller International (Helen Keller) facilitates vitamin A supplementation (VAS) in sub-Saharan Africa. The organisation provides technical assistance, engages in advocacy, and provides funding to government-run vitamin A supplementation programs.

Helen Keller is a top rated charity according to the research organisation GiveWell1.

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Malnutrition results in vitamin A deficiency

Problem

Provide millions of doses of vitamin A

Solution

Blindness and infant mortality are prevented

Impact

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
– Helen Keller

Problem

According to the World Health Organisation, every year vitamin A deficiency leads to blindness in 250,000-500,000 children and half of them die within 12 months2. Vitamin A deficiency makes people more susceptible to illness and leads to more deaths from common infections. It is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children worldwide.

For example, in the Saint Louis region of Senegal, almost half the population lives on less than $2 a day. High poverty rates mean that many children do not have access to nutritious food. This leads to many incidences of vitamin A deficiency.

Solution

Simple, inexpensive remedies can make a world of difference to a child’s future quality of life. One dose of vitamin A in the programme costs about $1.25 making it extremely cost-effective. That is why Helen Keller International is committed to providing millions of doses of vitamin A in Senegal and 11 other countries in Africa. Twice a year, children from 6 months to 5 years old receive a vitamin A tablet. Helen Keller works alongside local health centres to incorporate vitamin A administration into routine visits.

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Impact

There is strong evidence gleaned from many intervention studies* conducted in the 1980s and 1990s that vitamin A supplementation can significantly reduce infant mortality by up to 25%. An improvement in the quality of nutrition in future years will also reduce the mortality rate. Other important results include the prevention of induced blindness and the prevention of disease due to compromisation of immune system function.

Thanks to the support of donors, Helen Keller will be able to supply 30 million vitamin A capsules globally by 2021.

*These studies use a research strategy known as randomised controlled trials in which participants are divided into at least two groups. One group receives the intervention while the other does not. In this way, the actual effect of the intervention can be assessed at the end of the trial.

“It was amazing to see these babies grow into children, to see them with their mothers, with their brothers and sisters, to see that they can just be children. The opposite could have happened.”

David Doledec, Programme Director Vitamin A supplementation

Organisation

Helen Keller International was founded by Helen Keller and George Kessler in 1915 with the aim of providing support to soldiers who returned blind from the First World War.

Today, Helen Keller International has grown into a global health organisation dedicated to eliminating preventable blindness, malnutrition and related diseases. Its evidence-based programmes empower people to create opportunities and take control of their own lives to build lasting change.

Helen Keller International operates in 21 countries and is one of the most effective charities in the field.

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