For young children and pregnant and nursing women living in low-income countries, vitamin A deficiency (VAD) can be a matter of life and death.
The World Health Organization estimates that up to 2.7 million children’s lives could be saved every year simply by feeding them enough of this important micronutrient, which is not only good for vision, but immune function as well. Without enough of it, children can struggle to defend themselves against common childhood infections. Pregnant and nursing women are more susceptible to VAD because of the nutritional demands placed on their bodies, especially as their babies grow. For them, not consuming enough vitamin A can mean night blindness, illness and increased risk of maternal mortality.
Fortunately, all of this hardship and loss can be prevented with small changes to the food that mothers and their children eat — such as switching up sweet potato for orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP). Packed with beta-carotene, an important source of vitamin A, a single serving of OFSP per day is enough to stave off VAD, and all of the negative consequences that go along with it.
That is why we launched two new projects this year aimed at promoting this alternative to regular sweet potatoes.
The first, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, uses Participatory Radio Campaigns (PRCs) and information and communication technologies to scale up the production and consumption of OFSP in Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Mali and Burkina Faso, adding it to at least 500,000 rural households’ diets over 36 months. Learn more.
The second, funded through HarvestPlus, uses radio drama to promote OFSP in Uganda. The 30-episode series, My Children, will be broadcast in six languages on ten partner radio stations across the country. Listeners will have the chance to interact with broadcasters and discuss the series live on air through their mobile phones. Learn more.