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Helen Keller International is an NGO dedicated to preventing blindness in Africa through vitamin A supplementation and Onchocerciasis control. For more information, see http://www.hki.org.

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Helen Keller International: Preventing Blindness in Africa

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helen keller international

Helen Keller International

Preventing Blindness in Africa

February 2010


About Vitamin A Deficiency

  • Vitamin A deficiency(VAD) is the leading cause of blindness in children in the world today.
    • The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 140 million children, especially in Africa and Southeast Asia, suffer from VAD.
  • Each year, up to 500,000 children, or up to 60 per hour, go blind because of vitamin A deficiency.
    • Tragically, 70% of these children die within a year of losing their sight.

The Challenge in Africa

  • As many as half of the children in African countries suffer from vitamin A deficiency.
  • In Sierra Leone, for example, nearly 3 out of 10 children do not live to see their 5th birthday.
  • The challenge: how to reverse the devastation caused by blindness and malnutrition.

As Many as Half The Children in African Countries Suffer From Vitamin A Deficiency

© HKI/Wendy Lee


Helen Keller International: Providing Solutions to VAD in Africa

  • Just two doses of high-potency vitamin A capsules are needed each year to prevent blindness in at-risk children, at a cost of just $1.00 per child per year.
  • Helen Keller International’s goal is to ensure that the capsules reach those most in need.
    • We work with local partners to distribute vitamin A capsules twice a year to children under five.

How Helen Keller International Prevents Vitamin A Deficiency

  • Vitamin A not only saves sight, it also saves lives by helping the immune system fight illness.
  • More than 41 million African children benefitted from our vitamin A supplementation programs last year.

About Onchocerciasis

  • Onchocerciasis, is the world’s second-leading infectious cause of blindness, afflicting 18 million people, mostly in Africa.
  • Also known as river blindness, onchocerciasis is caused by parasitic worms that are transmitted through the bite of the black fly.
  • In Africa, 37 million people are infected with onchocerciasis and 89 million are at risk of infection.

How Helen Keller International Helps Control Onchocerciasis

  • An annual dose of the drug Mectizan® (ivermectin), generously donated by Merck & Co., Inc., prevents symptoms for one year.
  • In order to eliminate onchocerciasis as a public health problem, the drug must be given to community members for 15-20 years, the life cycle of the worms.

How Helen Keller International Helps Control Onchocerciasis

  • Helen Keller International trains and mobilizes vast networks of community volunteers to get Mectizan® to the people who need it.
  • Thanks to our efforts and these hardworking volunteers, onchocerciasis is on its way to being eliminated in Africa!

Help Helen Keller International Save Sight & Lives in Africa: Donate Today!

© HKI/Video for Good