COVID-19 impacts communities in the U.S. and worldwide that already lack access to essential health and nutrition services and puts them at even higher risk for malnutrition. As an organization dedicated to protecting the health of nutritionally vulnerable pregnant women and children, Vitamin Angels created the Healthy Futures Initiative to allow us to continue to adapt and respond to not only the immediate effects, but the long-term impacts of this crisis. We have the partners and programs in place to support the communities that need it most, but we can’t do it alone.
Over the past 26 years, Vitamin Angels has been fortunate to have passionate corporate supporters that stand behind our mission. As threats to the health, well-being, and futures of pregnant women and children in the US and around the world increase due to COVID-19, many of these partners have stepped up, once again, to help us meet this new challenge.
Colorcon, Irwin Naturals, Kyowa Hakko, Nature's Answer, Presence Marketing, Reckitt Benckiser, Windmill Health Products, ZoomEssence, Maximum Human Performance, PLT Health Solutions, BioCaps Enterprises, Inc., Herbal Pharmacist, and Weeks Lerman Group.
While COVID-19 represents unprecedented challenges, we are seeing unparalleled acts of bravery, kindness, and resilience from our global community of health care workers. Read updates from our program partners:
Food insecurity is common in South Africa, and the pandemic has highlighted its severity. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the issue of food insecurity and its consequences in South Africa and motivated development organizations to pay greater attention to hunger and undernutrition. With strict lock-down regulations in place, and associated constraints to operating funds, VA's program partners have been restricted from distributing prenatal multivitamins (multiple micronutrient supplements – MMS) to pregnant women. During these challenging program implementation times, our South African Program Manager, Pumla, has focused her efforts on working with national civil societies and government stakeholders to advocate for increased emphasis on the importance of nutrition in the first 1000 days in SA. VA's contribution has been to provide technical support to ensure that food parcels are nutritious and sensitive to WHO Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) recommendations. As a Registered Nutritionist, Pumla has also supported a cellphone based COVID-19 communication campaign led by a partner organization that addresses food insecurity and sub-optimal IYCF practices by providing breastfeeding education and food vouchers for vulnerable families and individuals. When MMS for pregnant women becomes available again in SA, VA plans to support the recent nutrition guidance offered by UNICEF as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that urges nutritionally at-risk pregnant women be afforded access to MMS. VA is among the few international organizations able to provide limited supplies of UNIMMAP – MMS to partner organizations.
Our program partner in Liberia, Cry Respond Foundation (CRF), is maintaining their distribution of Vitamin Angels’ nutrition interventions to at-risk communities while following local guidance for preventing the spread of COVID-19. CRF is also implementing critical public health efforts to address COVID-19 by “creating awareness and education about the virus and providing preventive measures materials such as hand washing buckets and hand sanitizer.” website: www.cryrespond.org
Three years into civil war in Cameroon, hundreds of thousands of individuals have been displaced from their homes. As a result, more than 50% of those served by our program partner, Strategic Humanitarian Services (SHUMAS) are living in farm huts, the forest, and even bushes with no access to functional health facilities. The global COVID – 19 pandemic further complicates and adversely affects the nutritional status of already nutritionally at-risk populations. However, our determined partner continues to provide nutrition interventions to those in need while closely tracking guidelines from the local government and WHO; and four of their team members have recently completed Vitamin Angels’ eLearning course focused on community nutrition education, best practices for distribution activities, and record keeping.
Trinity Muscatine Public Health Department, our program partner in Iowa, is expanding its reach and adapting services to meet the needs of pregnant women during the pandemic. Our partner has seen an increase in demand for prenatal multivitamins (multiple micronutrient supplements – MMS) as more women look for means of accessing these essential micronutrients during the pandemic. In response, they have expanded their distribution networks and implemented a contact-less MMS delivery system via curbside drop-off and pick-up.
In Kenya, program partner WE is focusing on local outreach and awareness campaigns to curb the spread of COVID-19. The organization has quickly responded by sending out trained team members and volunteers door to door as well as to common gathering places, like water points, to distribute essential resources and provide education. In the last 45 days alone, they have been able to reach over 150,000 people. WE is also taking steps to moderate long-term challenges such as food insecurity by "continuing their agriculture program to ensure increased access to a wider variety of nutritional food." Alongside their food program, the group continues to distribute Vitamin Angels' nutrition interventions through their hospital, Baraka. Improved nutrition and essential vitamins can boost immune function, which may help women and children avoid illness during this time. Link to web: https://www.we.org/en-US/
In Indiana, Elkhart County Health Department’s WIC Program and Healthy Beginnings Program have been hard at work attending to their community. Recently, they adapted their distribution method and started offering MMS through their drop off/pick-up process to ensure pregnant women have reliable access to prenatal multivitamins. Providing care and administering services may look different now, but they are determined to show up for those in need.
With the encouragement from local authorities to continue distributing nutrition interventions, our dedicated team is working tirelessly to coordinate deliveries to our program partners. Working under domestic air travel restrictions, our Philippines programs manager and coordinator are relying exclusively on local ground and sea shipping methods. Despite logistical challenges, boxes of Vitamin A and MMS are arriving to our program partners who are working through local channels to ensure safe and timely distribution to mothers and children in their communities.
We recently received an update from our program partner S.O.U.L. Foundation in Uganda in which they informed us that they “have always been on the frontline in rural areas, partnering with and for the most vulnerable by helping them to access health, education, and economic opportunities. Now, in the midst of this crisis and a country-wide lockdown, we are still on the frontline in our communities, still serving and still inspiring hope.”
“When we were closed due to COVID-19, we were trying to ‘think outside the box’ to continue serving our patients,” shared our program partner, Pregnancy Care Center of the North Coast, which operates a resource center and medical office in California. “We set up a drive-through resource distribution [system] using our Mobile Medical Unit. Patients would call us from the car and we would run supplies out to them. Our medical office continued to provide pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, and [prenatal multi]vitamins to our patients. [Recently,] we resumed services at the resource center. We are essential!”
“While Uganda is on lockdown, our team is using every tool available to meet with our wellness club members,” our program partners, Ourganda, in Uganda shared recently. In addition to setting up temporary clinic services at their offices, their team is bringing critical supplies - including prenatal multivitamins or multiple micronutrient - MMS- to those in need by foot or bicycle because motorized transport is prohibited. Sometimes multiple trips are needed, “this may not seem like much work, but these are long distances to the villages. Often 10-15 miles.”
“For many pregnant women, especially in rural areas, the only vitamin supplement they have is the one we provide thanks to you, Vitamin Angels.” Our program partner, Orphan Network (ON), had just completed delivery of prenatal multivitamins to all of the pregnant women they serve in early March, before the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the country. Their clients are now set with a 6-month supply of MMS on hand, relieving any pressure to seek the essential multivitamins and risk exposure during this time. ON is also leveraging WhatsApp groups to share resources and educational tools with the families they serve. The organization continues to operate their feeding center with additional preventative measures in place.
“Lately, women are very appreciative and grateful for one less thing they have to purchase during Covid-19,” the Nurse Manager of Modesto Pregnancy Center, a program partner in California, shared. “We had one women in her third trimester who called asking for a bottle of [prenatal multivitamins[KH1] ]. She said she didn't have enough money to buy more. She and the baby’s father were both currently out of work due to Covid-19. It was really nice to be able to help her out.”
"In the northwest region of Syria, where NuDay's work is focalized, was recently found to have four cases of COVID19 amongst medical professionals. Since the diagnosis, non-essential medical treatments were put on hold and intensive efforts are underway to locate any contacts who might have also been exposed. We are working rapidly to stabilize the spread; along with community education and implementing social distancing measures. NuDay has been sewing and distributing face masks (to combat the lack of personal protective equipment), installing wells for better hygiene efforts, distributing food and hygiene baskets, and building stand alone shelters for families. We are remaining positive, albeit realistic, that the spread will be contained. The donation of vitamin A, albendazole, and MMS from Vitamin Angels is a relief in these darker times, ensuring that the health needs of women and children (who are overwhelmingly impacted) are being met - so thank you."