After failing to buy vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets, Health Ministry seeks UN helpThis is the third time the government has requested the UN agency to supply the supplements and medicines.
The Ministry of Health and Population has requested UNICEF for vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets for its national “Vitamin A Campaign”, which will be launched in October.
This is the third time the ministry has requested the UN body for vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets after failing to procure them on time.
“We have yet to initiate the process to procure Vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets,” Dr Surendra Chaurasia, an official at the Management Division under the Department of Health Services, told the Post. “As we won’t be able to procure the supplements and deworming tablets through our process before October, we have placed a request with UNICEF.”
The Health Ministry administers vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets twice a year—in April and October—to children aged from six months to five years.
But despite the set schedule, the authorities often fail to initiate the process to procure the supplements and tablets on time. As a result, they have had to knock on the doors of the UN body.
According to Dr Chaurasia, the new fiscal year has just started and his office is yet to get the authority from the ministry to spend budget.
“We cannot initiate the procurement process unless the ministry approves the programmes,” said Chaurasiya. “The ministry is planning a workshop next week to discuss our procurement plans.”
The division buys vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets through an international bidding and it takes at least six months.
The Health Ministry also had requested UNICEF to supply the supplements and deworming tablets for the campaigns that were conducted in October last year and April this year, after the provincial governments failed to procure them on time.
After the implementation of federalism, three tiers of government came into place, and the Health Ministry had allocated budget to all the seven provincial governments to buy vitamin A and deworming tablets.
However, the provincial governments could not even start the procurement process for the October campaign.
Of the seven provinces, only Sudurpaschim Province procured vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets for the April campaign.
The Health ministry had requested the UN agency to provide vitamin A supplements and deworming tablets for the rest of the provinces and decided to procure them from the Management Division of the federal government.
“I don’t have any idea why the Management Division could not buy the supplements and deworming tablets,” Mahendra Shrestha, spokesperson for the Health Ministry, said.
The World Health Organization said that a lack of vitamin A causes visual impairment (night blindness) and increases vulnerability to illnesses like measles and diarrhoea among children. Vitamin A supplements mitigate the risk of exposure to such diseases.
Vitamin A deficiency was one of the major public health problems in the past. But with the implementation of the campaign to administer vitamin A supplements, vitamin A deficiency is no longer a public health concern.
The pilot project was launched in 1993 in various districts.
Vitamin A supplements are administered by over 50,000 female community health volunteers working across the country. The programme has over 94 percent coverage rate, the highest among health campaigns, according to the Health Ministry.