Doctors in the country have backed a study that indicates that giving Vitamin ‘A’ supplements to children under the age of five in developing countries could save 600,000 lives annually.
According to the British Medical Journal, UK and Pakistani experts, assessed 43 studies involving 200,000 children, and found deaths were cut by 24 percent if children were offered the vitamin.
They also say that taking it would also cut down on cases of measles and diarrhoea.
Dr. Alex Butera, the acting CEO of King Faisal Hospital, Kigali (KFH,K), told The New Times that the vitamin helps prevent night blindness, boosts immune systems and decreases child mortality.
“Its impact on decreasing diseases, especially viral infections, has earned it the name, "anti-infective vitamin", for its role in supporting the activities of the immune system,” Dr. Butera said.
He added that Vitamin ‘A’ is also involved in maintenance of epithelial and mucosal tissues – the linings of the digestive, respiratory, genital and reproductive systems – and therefore impacts on growth, reproduction and bone development.
Dr. Stephenson Musiime, a consultant Paediatrician at KFH, said: “In Rwanda, it is given as part of the immunisation program, every six months, to infants and is part of treatment for measles.”
Vitamin ‘A’, which is found in foods like cheese, eggs, liver and oily fish, enhances the body’s visual and immune systems.
There are concerns that despite widespread efforts, supplement programs do not reach all children.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that, worldwide, 190 million children under the age of five may have a Vitamin ‘A’ deficiency.