For my birthday this year I'm raising money for Helen Keller’s Vitamin A supplementation programme.
Abdoul is a young boy in Mali who struggled with night blindness and health issues, unlike his older siblings.
Though his father was sceptical about vitamin A’s impact, they found a huge transformation in just a single dose.
Four-year-old Abdoul was always sick, until his family discovered vitamin A.
Abdoul is the youngest of four siblings living with their parents in a small village called Massala in south-central Mali. Although the rest of his family was well, Abdoul was often ill. He was hospitalised at least twice a month, each time with a different illness.
Particularly scary was the mysterious trouble Abdoul had with his eyesight: during the day, Abdoul could see perfectly well, but as the sun went down, he would lose most of his vision.
Abdoul was suffering from nyctalopia, or night blindness.
Night blindness and frequent infections are both symptoms of a lack of vitamin-A in childrens’ diets.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 44% of children under 5 are deficient in vitamin-A. The vitamin occurs naturally in foods like sweet potatoes, carrots and eggs, but many families struggle to access these foods.
Sufficient vitamin-A is critical to developing a robust immune system. Children with vitamin-A are therefore susceptible not only to extreme and scary conditions like night blindness, but also to ‘normal’ childhood illnesses and even potential lethal infections like malaria and pneumonia. Around 400,000 children each year go blind because of a lack of vitamin-A in their diets, and around 200,000 die from related infections.
Abdoul’s parents were sceptical about vitamin-A. They had learned to be cautious of “free” drug treatment programs. However, by engaging with the local community and using local staff to build trust, Helen Keller International was able to change their minds.
Once Abdoul received his first dose of vitamin-A, it took less than two months for his health to improve. His visits to the hospital have all but ceased and he is able to lead a normal life like other children in his country. His parents. Alou and Tariba, have now become advocates for the program.
“Honestly, I had no belief in this when I finally agreed to give vitamin A to my child,” admitted Alou, his father. “But today he is cured, and I can say with conviction that it is because of vitamin A.”
Luke has recently joined the Giving What We Can Team as the Effective Giving Global Coordinator and Incubator where he works to support the global effective giving community and help with the development of new effective giving initiatives.
He is dedicated to making the world a better place and has given time to, amongst other causes, teaching disadvantaged children in Nepal, assisting with blood donations for St John's Ambulance, organising environmental activism and community-building for the Effective Altruism Movement.
In addition to his time, he has pledged to give at least 10% of his income over the course of his life to charities that can most effectively use that money to improve the lives of others.
Vitamin A Supplementation
Helen Keller Intl partners with governments across Africa and Asia to provide millions of children every year with lifesaving vitamin A supplements and other nutrients.