Haiti’s undernourishment rate in 2016-2018 was at 49.3%, meaning that approximately half of the population is unable to reach their caloric requirements.6 In November 2020, ITIAH Angels for Learning (IAFL) completed its first medical consultation on 30 girls at the École Mère Louise School (EML). We noticed that the girls had vitamin B-complex, vitamin A, vitamin D, and iron sulfate deficiencies. Many of the children fail to eat three meals a day and thus, perpetuate the issue of malnutrition.
Vitamin B-complex is categorized into Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, B7, and B12. Vitamin B is found in all types of food such as dairy products, greens, fish, and meats.1 They target different aspects of energy production, metabolism, cell division, and preventing infections.5 Each form of Vitamin B has a different dosage, but in the most important vitamins such as Vitamin B12, children need to consume less than 1.5 micrograms per day.1 In our medical consultation, we found that UTI infections are prevalent within these young girls so Vitamin B can help treat this.
Vitamin A focuses on maintaining normal vision, the immune system, and works toward keeping other organs, like the heart, functioning. Foods such as leafy greens, fruits, and dairy products provide adequate sources of vitamin A. Children ages 4-8 should consume about 400 mcg per day. Deficiencies are mainly found in developing countries and can lead to xerophthalmia, the inability to see in low light and children are unable to absorb nutrients which is one of the main causes of malnutrition.3
Vitamin D allows the body to absorb calcium, allowing for strong bones. Foods such as milk and fatty fish provide good sources of Vitamin D without having to take supplements. Lack of vitamin D can result in rickets, a condition where the bones become weak and painful. On average, children ages 1-13 are expected to consume or supplement 1-15 mcg per day, however, this can vary in the case of malnutrition.4.
Iron sulfate supplements help treat the symptoms associated with anemia. Many of the girls at EML suffer from anemia, meaning that their bodies cannot make enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. Encouraging children to eat iron-rich foods such as spinach and legumes helps increase iron levels as well. In the case where anemia is severe, children can take 200mg tablets 2-3 times a day or 4ml drops 1-2 times a day, according to their doctor’s instructions.2
IAFL is looking to bridge the gap in supplementing access to resources to better suit the children’s nutritional needs by partnering with vitamin-supplying organizations.
- “B Vitamins and Folic Acid.” NHS Choices, NHS, 3 Aug. 2020, http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-b/.
- “Ferrous Sulfate.” NHS Choices, NHS, 14 Nov. 2019, http://www.nhs.uk/medicines/ferrous-sulfate/#:~:text=Ferrous%20sulfate%20(or%20sulphate)%20is,too%20low%2C%20leading%20to%20anaemia.
- “Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin A.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 14 Jan. 2021, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-Consumer/#:~:text=Vitamin%20A%20is%20a%20fat,and%20other%20organs%20work%20properly.
- “Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin D.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 7 Jan. 2021, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/.
- Vitamin B-Complex, 12 May 2015, wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=hn-2922005.
- Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe. (2019). Hunger and Undernutrition in Haiti. Retrieved February 02, 2021, from https://www.globalhungerindex.org/case-studies/2019-haiti.html
By Kristina Patel, RU fellow