Vitamin Angels’ Thrive to Five Program: A Global Multivitamin Campaign
Every year, around 54 million new children are affected by malnutrition or undernutrition. Vitamin Angel’s Thrive to Five program gives children under five the vital first step to excel physically and cognitively, rather than simply survive their key developmental years.
Vitamin Angels (VA) also aims to reach at-risk children under five with essential nutrients before their health and development are negatively impacted. Well-nourished children take better advantage of available educational opportunities. In addition, VA provides essential nutrients to new and expecting mothers, increasing the health of both mother and child.
VA achieves results by working with partners that have a local presence and focus on settings where undernutrition and malnutrition are known to be prevalent. By tapping these groups’ intimate understanding of the communities being served, every project is localized to apply targeted solutions, while also employing accepted best practices for distributing essential nutrients.
As a result, Thrive to Five currently distributes around 100 million doses of essential micronutrients annually in 28 countries on four continents, including the United States.
Vitamin Angels’ Thrive to Five Program in Guatemala
Vitamin Angels (VA) has been working with their local partner, Faith In Practice (FP) , since 2007. FP is the second largest health care provider in Guatemala, serving over 17,000 beneficiaries per year. Working in Guatemala for 18 years, FP has set up medical clinics staffed by local professionals and pharmacists who distribute children’s multivitamins and women’s prenatal/postnatal multivitamins.
The World Health Organization (WHO, 2008/2009) reports that of children under 5 in Guatemala, 13.4-18.5% are vitamin A deficient (1995), 38.1% are anemic (2002), 54.3% are stunted, 2% are wasted, and 17.7% are underweight. U5MR (2009) is 39 per 1000 live births.
With poor prenatal care and high rates of malnutrition, Guatemalan women suffer from the 3rd highest Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in the Western Hemisphere; an MMR of 290 per 100,000 live births (WHO 2009). Additionally, 6.8% of pregnant and lactating women suffered night blindness, and 17.6%-27.4% of pregnant women are anemic (WHO 2002).
Despite efforts to provide essential micronutrient supplementation and accessible health services, coverage rates are inconsistent due to decades of armed conflict. This is worsened by one of the lowest rates of government public health expenditures – it is difficult for the population to access regular health services, and limits the quality and effectiveness of public services.
FP takes an integrated approach to health care that is committed to long term relationships with local Guatemalans. Every year medical teams are sent to remote villages where local partners set up clinics; medical care is provided and surgical candidates are identified. Throughout the year, Guatemalan partners will then accompany these patients to one of four locations where FP surgical teams are stationed, in partnership with local hospitals renovated by FP to ensure safety and surgical appropriateness. The local partners then accompany the patients back to the villages. Medical teams return to the same areas routinely.
In FP medical clinics, physicians prescribe medication and pharmacists dispense them, including multivitamins for children and pregnant women. Staff in Antigua monitor work in the villages, including the distribution of multivitamins, throughout the year.
In the past 3 years of partnership, Vitamin Angels has provided FP with 1,555,200 tablets of children’s daily multivitamins, enough to reach 4260 children under 5 for a year. In addition, 1,964,640 multivitamins for pregnant/lactating women have been provided – enough to reach 5,382 women for a year.