Arjun Poudel, The Kathmandu Post, April 19, 2019
As many as 2.6 million children aged six months to five years are expected to be administered with vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets as part of a nationwide campaign to be held on Friday and Saturday.
Nutrition Section under the Family Welfare Division of the Department of Health Services, which is responsible to run the campaign, said all necessary preparations to administer the supplement and deworming tablets have been completed.
“We would like to request all parents to make sure that their children aged six months to five years are administered with the vitamin A and deworming tablets,” Kedar Parajuli, chief of nutrition section of the division said. The section estimates that there are 26,68,540 children aged six months to five years in the country, who need vitamin A supplement and deworming tablets.
The vitamin A campaign is largely a success story in Nepal, as it has immensely helped tackle the issue of vitamin A deficiency among children, which used to a major public health problem in the country.
The coverage rate, however, has been declining by the year. The programme had a coverage rate of over 94 percent, the highest among health campaigns and programmes in the country in the past. But last year, only 85 percent children were administered the vitamin A supplement and deworming tablets.
The nutrition section said that the coverage rate was much lower in big cities, metropolises and submetropolises in comparison to remote districts and far-flung villages.
“Reaching out to elite groups, educated people and people residing in apartments and colonies has emerged as a main challenge to us,” said Parajuli. “They neither give access to female community health volunteers nor listen to them.”
Likewise, floating population, slum settlements and lack of exact data are some of the other issues that have hindered the drug administration process, according to Narendra Bajracharya, chief of Health Department at Kathmandu Metropolitan City. “We do not know exact number of children in our metropolis,” said Bajracharya. “We have been setting targets on the basis of 2011’s census data.”
In Kathmandu, of the estimated 80,000 children aged six months and five years, only 62,000 (77 percent) were administered vitamin A and deworming tablets last year.
The government has been conducting such nationwide campaigns twice a year since 2003—in October and in April. This year, the Health Ministry requested UNICEF for vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets after provincial governments failed to procure it on time. Out of seven provinces throughout the country only Sudurpaschim Province managed to purchase the vitamin A supplement and deworming tablets. Except Province 2, all the other provinces sought help of the federal government to purchase the medicines.