Helen Keller Intl— Vitamin A supplementation programme
Recommended Charity

Helen Keller International

Vitamin A Supplementation

HKI's Vitamin A supplementation program Improves child health and survival rates by partnering with governments across Africa and Asia to deliver lifesaving vitamin A supplements, essential nutrients, and complementary activities to millions of children annually.

What problem is Helen Keller Intl working on?

Vitamin A strengthens vision, prevents blindness, and builds children’s immune systems so that they are strong enough to fight childhood illnesses like colds, flu, malaria, and diarrhoea. Without enough vitamin A, these routine illnesses can quickly end a child’s life — GiveWell attributes over 200,000 child deaths to vitamin A deficiencies every year.

In many countries, vitamin A is a natural part of diets. But for many families living in poverty around the world vitamin A-rich foods are not part of their regular diets. Sometimes they’re not available, but more often they’re too expensive for families.

Helen Keller Intl reports that twice-yearly vitamin A supplementation for children between six months and five years old “can reduce child mortality by almost a quarter and help prevent blindness.”

What does Helen Keller Intl do?

A single capsule of vitamin A given to children twice a year for the first five years of their lives can save their sight and lives, for only a little more than $1 per dose. Helen Keller Intl reports that, in 2022 alone, it helped deliver over 60 million vitamin A capsules to children under five.

As part of its vitamin A supplementation (VAS) programme, Helen Keller Intl:

  • Distributes vitamin A supplements to children across Africa through door-to-door and fixed-site campaigns.
  • Partners with local governments in low-income communities across Africa to facilitate VAS programme implementation, provide funding, and offer technical assistance (including helping with monitoring, training, and budgeting).
  • Advocates for mass VAS campaigns.
  • Partners with local communities, governments, multilateral organisations, academic institutions, and the private sector to increase impact.

Helen Keller Intl's VAS programme is recommended by the impact-focused charity evaluator GiveWell, which we looked into as part of our 2023 evaluator investigations. We concluded that GiveWell’s recommendations are well-suited to helping donors maximise the impact of their “dollar” in the global health and wellbeing space. You can read our report on GiveWell here, and GiveWell’s extensive evaluation of Helen Keller Intl's VAS program, which highlights its cost-effectiveness, here.

Helen Keller Intl's VAS programme has been a GiveWell top charity since November 2017. Additionally, Open Philanthropy awarded a $9.7 million grant to Helen Keller Intl's VAS programme in 2020. Vitamin A supplementation has a strong evidence base, though GiveWell does express some uncertainty about current rates of Vitamin A deficiency in the areas Helen Keller Intl targets. Additionally, GiveWell supports Helen Keller Intl's mass distribution campaigns rather than its routine delivery programmes.

Please note that GWWC does not evaluate individual charities. Our recommendations are based on the research of third-party, impact-focused charity evaluators our research team has found to be particularly well-suited to help donors do the most good per dollar, according to their recent evaluator investigations. Our other supported programs are those that align with our charitable purpose — they are working on a high-impact problem and take a reasonably promising approach (based on publicly-available information).

At Giving What We Can, we focus on the effectiveness of an organisation's work -- what the organisation is actually doing and whether their programs are making a big difference. Some others in the charity recommendation space focus instead on the ratio of admin costs to program spending, part of what we’ve termed the “overhead myth.” See why overhead isn’t the full story and learn more about our approach to charity evaluation.