Vitamin Angels participated in the Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Conference at the Institut Pasteur in Paris on April 2. At the conference, Vitamin Angels announced its commitment of $4.5 million to scale up co-administration of albendazole, a deworming treatment, with vitamin A to all eligible pre-school age children not reached by government programs. The commitment also includes support for technical assistance to its network of field partners. Vitamin Angels will also participate in an initiative facilitated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fill critical gaps in combatting intestinal worms, also known as soil-transmitted helminthes (STH), which are one of the world's neglected tropical diseases. This announcement is the first public declaration of incorporating deworming into Vitamin Angels' plan to address undernutrition globally.
“By giving pre-school aged children albendazole alongside vitamin A we are not only reducing the burden of intestinal worms, but also improving absorption of this essential nutrient," said Vitamin Angels’ founder and president, Howard Schiffer. “Vitamin Angels has been pairing these interventions for years. We couldn’t be more pleased to join this esteemed community and increase our efforts to bring these critically needed interventions to young children."
STH infections are one of the most common parasitic infection in children. Across the globe, approximately 870 million children are at risk of infection with intestinal worms. These infections can lead to impaired growth and nutrition, decreased cognitive function and anemia. Their presence can also lead to poor absorption of vitamin A, which is essential for proper immune function and maintenance of structural integrity of cells. Vitamin A deficiency also leads to permanent blindness for about 350,000 children per year and approximately 670,000 deaths annually as a result of immune systems not fighting off disease.
Vitamin Angels is an organization helping at-risk populations, specifically pregnant women, new mothers and young children, in need gain access to vitamins and minerals. In 2014, Vitamin Angels is working to reach 40 million children in 45 countries, including the United States, with vital nutrients they need for good health.