Tanzania's campaign to wipe out Vitamin A deficiency was boosted on Tuesday when Canada announced a donation of a further 1.9 billion Tanzanian shillings (US $1.7 million) to benefit young children and postpartum women across the country.
The money from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) would be channelled through the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and would be used to maintain the high immunisation coverage on mainland Tanzania and to boost coverage on the semiautonomous island of Zanzibar, UNICEF said on Tuesday.
"Tanzania has maintained high immunisation coverage due to a well functioning immunisation programme and extensive coverage of health services through the Ministry of Health. Districts and villages organise community child health days," UNICEF said.
As a result, UNICEF added, trained health workers have provided Vitamin A, twice a year, to 90 percent of children under five years old on the mainland.
But, at the moment, through the routine health system, only 50 percent of children under five years old on Zanzibar receive Vitamin A, UNICEF reported.
It is hoped that CIDA's contribution would establish Child Health Day activities on Zanzibar, boost coverage and, eventually, match that of mainland Tanzania.
The donation is part of Canada's 15 million-Canadian-dollar ($11.2 million) grant to enhance UNICEF's vitamin A programmes in eastern, central and southern Africa over the next three years.
Vitamin A deficiency increases child mortality, causes blindness and increases severity of infections and, in Tanzania, has been declared a public health concern.
According to the World Health Report of 2003, Vitamin A deficiency caused 24 percent of diarrhoea deaths, 20 percent of measles deaths, 20 percent of malaria deaths and 6 percent of all deaths of children under five years.
"It's no longer acceptable to simply identify symptoms of micronutrient deficiency in children and then treat them," Rodney Phillips, UNICEF Representative to Tanzania, said on Tuesday. "We have to protect entire populations against the devastating consequences of vitamin A deficiency, especially postpartum mothers and children."
He added: "There is no excuse for not reaching all mothers and children with these simple but life-saving micronutrients. We know what needs to be done - we just have to do it."
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