Supplements saving lives

Operation 20/20 from Vitamin Angels on Vimeo.

As a working mom with two young kids, I often feel overwhelmed by what's on my plate—which can have the regrettable effect of making looking outward into the world and trying to make a dent in the problems of humanity seem ... even more overwhelming! (And something I tell myself I'll have more time for LATER). And yet, showing my children the values of service and helping others was one of the things I envisioned most strongly during more tranquil pregnant days. Thankfully, I recently had the opportunity to learn more about Vitamin Angels, an incredibly effective, efficient, and life-saving cause that every parent, every person can easily get behind.

Did you know that vitamin A deficiency in the first five years of life can cause blindness, and even death? And that it costs only 25 cents a year to prevent that fate—by giving a child two high doses of vitamin A plus antiparasitic medication (so nutrients can be absorbed). When Vitamin Angels founder Howard Schiffer learned that fact, he became determined to deliver these supplements to as many children around the world as possible. Sixteen years later, Vitamin Angels' Operation 20/20 is reaching 20 million children and 500,000 lactating mothers in over 40 countries, from Nepal to Haiti. Vitamin Angels also works in the United States (and 27 other countries) with its Thrive to Five campaign, which distributes 100 million multivitamin/mineral doses a year to children under five and pregnant/lactating women, again for less than 25 cents per child.

In my relatively prosperous world, taking multivitamins is a nice bonus to my family's bountiful diet, one that may or may not be having a major effect on our health. But in countries where children are malnourished (one-third of childhood deaths worldwide are caused by inadequate nutrition), supplementing with essential micronutrients can literally help revive ailing, listless infants, and save many, many lives. (In fact, a panel of esteemed economists at the 2008 Copenhagen Consensus deemed micronutrient supplementation THE MOST COST-EFFECTIVE solution to the world's ten biggest challenges.)

As a potential donor or fundraiser, here's what you want to know:

1) It only takes 25 cents for Vitamin Angels to reach one child with life-saving vitamin A for a whole year. (Vitamin A supplementation is proven to reduce child mortality by 23%!)

2) Vitamin Angels works to build long-term, locally supported programs. (The group started as a response to natural disasters, but have shifted their focus to reaching the same children and mothers for consecutive years, in order to create lasting, lifelong effects.)

2) At least 95 percent of donated funds go to programs. Nonprofit Charity Navigator has awarded Vitamin Angels top ranking (4 stars) for two years running.

If you want to help:

1. Go to Donate online, or access resources to help you launch your own fundraising effort, perhaps through school or work.

2. Become a fan of their Facebook page. (Click on Save a Life to find quick, free ways to lend support.) Or follow them on Twitter.

3. Support companies that donate supplements and money to Vitamin Angels, including:

Whole Foods

Vitamin Cottage

NOW Nutrition

Rainbow Light

Nordic Naturals


New Chapter

Natural Factors

For a full list of supporting partners, go to and click on Shop Our Partners.

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