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Do Multivitamins Work? The Benefits of Vitamins in Kaberamaido, Uganda

Ugandan boy holding a multivitamin in the palm of hand

Your impact on the children of the Hopechest Carepoint in Kaberamaido, Uganda

 

Do multivitamins work? The short answer is a definite "YES!" Believe it or not, not everyone has easy access to multivitamins. The benefits of vitamins as we know is clearly effective. Doctors, dermatologists, and nutritionist all recommend some sort of vitamin for us. With the health craze going on, we forget that there are people in the world that lack just the simplest resources like food and water.

So how do multivitamins work in Kabermaido, Uganda? How often are children in Kabermaido, Uganda given access to those sweet, chewy multivitamins? At this time, the Carepoint relies on donors to fill their supply of vitamins. Even then, the supply is limited, so the children are only able to take multivitamins at least once a week. Still, the results have been meaningful, and we interviewed Dr. Terri to better understand how the role of multivitamins work on children in developing countries. Dr. Terri has embarked on a few trips to Kaberamaido, Uganda (some along with other medical professionals) to check on the children.

Ugandans holding multivitamin bottle smile images

Q: How common is malnutrition in Kaberamaido, Uganda? And how do the benefits of vitamins help?

Malnutrition is a significant problem in Uganda. In a vitamin study by the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 30% of children up to age 5 years have “stunted” growth in Uganda.  Another vitamin study from American Journal Clinical Nutrition finds that 52.5% of all deaths in young children worldwide can be attributed to undernutrition (Caulfield 2004, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). Being malnourished and/or ill makes it difficult for these children to attend school and meet their learning goals, let alone live a reasonably healthy life.

Q: What is the role of the Hopechest CarePoint in combating malnutrition?

Because the benefits of vitamins make a significant difference in children’s growth, the feeding program at the Hopechest CarePoint in Kaberamaido, Uganda does tremendous good to combat malnutrition in the children. This one meal each day at the CarePoint, however, is often the only consistent meal many of these children receive. Because we want to give the children as much support as possible to survive, thrive, and achieve, we have started providing children’s multivitamins on a regular basis in addition to the typical feeding program.

Q: How do you know if the multivitamins are working?

The benefits of vitamins include a noticeable difference in the overall look of health for the children. Their skin and eyes appear healthier, and they complain of fewer significant health problems with each visit since the vitamin program began. This vitamin study indicates that providing access to vitamins to children can prevent the simplest diseases that lead to death.

It is our hope that the vitamins, in conjunction with their daily meal, will help them remain as healthy and strong as possible. We aim to give the children a strong foundation, enabling them to succeed in school and life.

Ugandan passing out multivitamin from palm of hand

Q: How did the idea of providing vitamins for the children come about?

The idea for the vitamin program started when one of the service teams traveling to Kaberamaido brainstormed ideas about how we could impact the children’s health in real and lasting ways. We knew we could not cure or prevent every case of pneumonia or infectious diarrhea for the children in Kaberamaido. We knew we could not eradicate malaria or HIV in all of Uganda. And we knew we could not quickly increase the number of physicians and other healthcare workers to improve access to medical care for the children and their families. What we could do, however, was to give these children the best nutritional foundation possible so that their bodies are better equipped to fight off illness and disease. We are hopeful that improving their nutritional health will also allow some of the children in the Kaberamaido Hopechest CarePoint to do so well in school that they can pursue careers as physicians or other healthcare providers.

Q: What are some common ailments that the children face and what type of care is provided as a result?

Children under the age of 5 years in Uganda are almost twice as likely to die compared to the global average (WHO 2011 data). The main conditions that cause death to children under the age of 5 years in Uganda include pneumonia (lung infection), premature birth, malaria, diarrhea, and HIV/AIDS (WHO 2010 data).

In Uganda, the number of people with HIV in the population is 8 times higher than the global average, and the number of malaria infections each year is 7 times higher than the global average (WHO 2011 data).

These illnesses do affect the children at the Kaberamaido, Uganda Hopechest CarePoint. Each visit I make I see children affected by malaria, pneumonia, HIV, typhoid, and diarrheal illness. Even so, I am very glad to report that none of our CarePoint children have been lost due to illness. The children do sometimes have what we consider severe health problems, but they also deal with health issues like colds and flus, allergies, sore throat, headaches, and stomach aches. 

Doctor checking Ugandan boy heart rate

Q: How do the medical teams deal with the health issues in Kaberamaido, Uganda?

When our medical teams travel to Kaberamaido, Uganda, we deal with the health issues in three main ways. First, we provide education and information about a variety of health topics. We feel this is one of the most powerful tools we have to improve the overall health of the children and their caregivers. So far, we have focued on oral health (brushing teeth), hand-washing to prevent spread of infection, and menstrual hygeine and health. Second, we support recovery from and treat the minor illnesses that we can when they are simple and isolated health problems. Finally, we help the children and their caregivers make connections with the existing health care systems in the area for health issues that are more chronic or serious. We want to support primary care in Uganda and promote good use of the existing system rather than creating an alternative system or avenue for care.

Thank you Dr. Terri for taking the time to share your experience with the children in Kabermaido, Uganda! We appreciate you telling us about the benefits of vitamins for the children and answering our questions. What are your thoughts on this? We’d love to hear it!





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