Mom likely told you to take your vitamins and eat your veggies every day, but what happens when she can’t afford to provide them?
Sadly, many families face this heartbreaking reality with grim consequences. Nearly one third of the world’s children under five are deficient in vitamin A, which is critical for a functioning immune system and healthy vision. This essential nutrient exists naturally in eggs and butter, and as beta-carotene in colorful vegetables like carrots, spinach and sweet potatoes before the body converts it. In the U.S. and other developed nations, many foods are fortified with vitamin A, but that isn’t the case in many countries. Without enough vitamin A, children are unable to fight off illness or grow and develop properly, and tragically even become victims of the leading cause of preventable childhood blindness.
Enter Vitamin Angels, a non-profit determined to transform those unsettling statistics. Reaching a young child (6-59 months of age) that’s suffering from or at risk of vitamin A deficiency with just one dose of vitamin A twice a year can reduce child mortality rates from all causes by about 24 percent and the risk of early signs of blindness caused by VAD by 68 percent. The organization, which operates in approximately 45 countries, also provides prenatal vitamins to pregnant and nursing mothers as well as multivitamins to at-risk children under five right here in the United States.
Beyond the numbers are the faces of children who have been given a second chance.
In a remote Honduran village, a schoolteacher recounts how her 5-year-old student, Jefferson, was once pale with skin lesions all over his body. He was usually coughing, shied away from interacting with classmates, and was too lethargic to even play. After receiving vitamin A from the Vitamin Angels, his teacher Blanca says the change is evident. “His skin has cleared up…he is taller and stronger and plays with the other children,” she says. The now-smiling boy, who loves to paint and dreams of becoming an artist, comes to class eagerly ready to learn.
Across the world in the slums of Mumbai, India, the only child of Suresh and Sarita was similarly plagued by a weak immune system. Sweety suffered endless fevers and a violent bout with measles that she nearly lost at the age of 2. Lacking the nutrition her body needed to heal, the little girl was plagued by diarrhea and weight loss for months. Her future appeared bleak until local health workers took notice of Sweety’s struggles and quickly enrolled her in the nutrition program. Within months of receiving vitamin A and other support, the toddler started gaining weight and erupting into giggles to the joy and relief of her parents, who saw her playful personality reemerge.
In the United States, despite many readily available foods being supersized, the problem is the lack of affordable nutritious foods in underprivileged areas. From Natchitoches, Louisiana, to Queens, New York, Vitamin Angels delivers bottles of multivitamins to pregnant and nursing moms and children under 5 in over 40 states, helping American children reach their full potential. At a recent stop, a young mother named Anna brought her children to get vitamins she wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. “I want them to grow up healthy—to have a future career, to be somebody in life,” she said in the short documentary “A Supporting Role,” which follows three filmmakers to Vitamin Angels vitamin distributions in the U.S., India and Peru.
About 90 percent of donations Vitamin Angels receives go straight to their programs, a feat which Charity Navigator has recognized with a top four-star rating for seven years in a row. Vitamin Angels’ programs are possible thanks to partnerships with companies like derma e, a family-owned American brand of naturally vitamin-rich skincare, and NeoCell, known for their ingestible supplements for health and beauty that are sold at health and wellness stores nationwide. The brands support Vitamin Angels through monetary contributions and retail promotions.
Jessica Mulligan, NeoCell Vice President of Sales and Marketing, went on trip to Peru with Vitamin Angels in 2013 to see firsthand how Vitamin Angels is changing lives. “Seeing the very real difference that NeoCell’s contributions are making in the lives of children in need was one of the best experiences of my life,” she says. Since partnering with Vitamin Angels, NeoCell has helped over 1 million at-risk mothers and children receive the vitamins and minerals they need to not just survive, but thrive.
Wondering how you can help transform the life of a child in need? Make a direct donation to Vitamin Angels by visiting their website, vitaminangels.org. You can also support socially-conscious businesses like derma e and NeoCell that make giving to Vitamin Angels a core part of their business. However you help, it doesn’t take much to make a measurable difference that a child will remember forever.
This post is sponsored by NeoCell.