All babies need Vitamin A to help protect them from infectious diseases.
When they are born, they have a reserve of Vitamin A that is adequate for a
short time until they begin breast-feeding. But if the mother is undernourished,
the milk she provides may not contain enough Vitamin A and the baby struggles to
That is the situation in many developing countries where the death rate for newborns is especially high. A recent study that shows that giving Vitamin A to babies right after birth can reduce the odds of death significantly.
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health [in Baltimore, Maryland] found that one single dose of "A" made a big difference in the survival rate of those babies.
Rolf Klemm was the lead author of the study. He says, "What we found was that you could reduce the risk of dying through six months of age, by 15 percent. Just in Bangladesh alone, that translates to about 20-thousand infant deaths prevented per year."
Klemm estimates that if Vitamin A was widely distributed to all babies in South Asia, as many as a half million more babies would survive.
In the past, there have been other studies in South Asia about the benefits of Vitamin A.
In Nepal, older babies as well as children up to the age of five, received the capsules as part of a nationwide program sponsored by the UN. The Johns Hopkins study now supports the benefits of administering "A" within seven hours of birth.
As a result, plans are underway to extend the supply of Vitamin A to all newborn infants in Nepal and Bangladesh. South Asia is not the only part of the developing world experiencing high infant mortality.
Rolf Klemm says more research needs to be done in Africa, particularly in regions plagued by malaria.
Listen to the report in Lao by clicking any audio file above.
Editor: Jim Fry
Translator: Vannasone Keodara