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Meena and Vitamin A

Meena is a cheerful 11-year-old girl who attended the Seb’s Tribal School in Thattankuttai until 2011, when she was taken away to labour in another state with her family. When she returned she started to go blind, and within weeks she was completely unable to distinguish shapes and see light.

Seb’s Health and Development Workers, notified Seb’s staff and rushed her to the Community Health & Development Hospital in Vellore, where she was immediately referred for treatment at Schell Eye Hospital. Both Meena’s eyes were ulcerated, weeping, completely clouded and white. She was in a lot of pain and very scared. The doctors diagnosed a severe Vitamin A deficiency which had caused ulcers to eat into her eyes. They predicted Meena would be completely blind in the left eye, while the right would suffer serious long term damage. She received treatment for 7 days and upon discharge both her eyes had recovered with only minor photosensitivity.

Not all cases are as dramatic as Meena’s, but some can be much worse. This case study illustrates the need for aid in these tribal areas to raise basic awareness of proper medical intervention and nutritional issues. Most of the health problems faced by the villages in Tamil Nadu are nutrition-related. Vitamin A deficiency is very common. Vitamin A is an essentien nutrient which keeps skin and eyes healthy and plays a vital role in phototransduction. A lack in Vitamin A can not only cause blindness but also diminishes the ability to fight infections.Vitamin A deficiency is estimate to affect approximately one third of the children under the age of five around the world.

Vitamin A is found in food sources such as fish oils, eggs, dairy, and orange and yellow fruits and vegetables. In Tamil Nadu, the staple diet consists of rice and pepper/tamarind water (rasam). Vegetables are only eaten twice a week, with meat and dairy products hardly ever eaten at all. The best way to treat Vitamin A deficiency is through proper diet management. In an attempt to get the villagers eating more vegetables HEAL workers encouraged the villagers to grow their own vegetables. Research has shown that a 60 meter squared plot will feed 14 people and will reduced what the family needs to purchase at market. So far, they have planted chillies, aubergines, ladies fingers, cluster beans, tomatoes, and snake gourds.

Vitamin A deficiency is easily avoided and Meena’s story shows why projects like HEAL are so importnat in these areas. Helping and teaching families to understand the importance of treatment and nutrition can avoid serious health risks for their children. In order to build the capacity of The Sebastian Hunter Trust’s Health & Development Workers, the Seb’s Projects hold monthly awareness community meetings in their villages and the monthly health camps.

Our ability to supply Health & Development Workers for such health camps and training sessions are reliant upon the generous donations from our sponsors. A big thanks to all of you who have already donated, even the smallest donation makes a HUGE impact.

If you would like to donate, please click here. Furthermore, if you are interested in volunteering as a Health & Development Worker, please click here.

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