New York, New York, UNITED STATES

NEW YORK, June 8, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Canadian Government signed a CDN$29 million (US$29.2 million) grant today with Helen Keller International (HKI) to drive further reductions in child mortality in 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The three-year grant is evidence of Canada's commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goal for child survival and continues their consistent investments that have positioned vitamin A supplementation as a central pillar of child survival programming.

In 2012 UNICEF announced major progress in reducing child mortality – especially in some of the poorest countries in Africa. The great unsung hero of these reductions is the simple vitamin A capsule. The World Health Organization estimates that vitamin A supplementation reduces deaths in children 6-59 months by a stunning 24%. The Copenhagen Consensus has consistently ranked vitamin A supplementation as one of the best buys in development. HKI published an analysis in 2005 showing that controlling vitamin A deficiency in sub-Saharan Africa will avert more than 600,000 deaths per year.

HKI's Vice-President, Regional Director for Africa Shawn Baker said, "Canada's unflagging commitment to vitamin A supplementation and Child Health Days in Africa has been one of the single most important factors in driving the success we see today. The goal posts have changed and national governments now recognize the vital importance of investing in these essential child survival services."

We are proud of Canada's leadership in nutrition and food security. Improving nutrition is a key element of the Muskoka Initiative to improve maternal, newborn and child health. This Scaling Up Nutrition initiative will deliver cost-effective, life-saving nutrition and health services to young children to ensure they have the best possible start to life.

Canada has been a global leader in support of vitamin A supplementation and other child survival interventions that have transformed the way services are delivered in Africa. Child Health Days reach out to all children with a bundle of low-cost, high impact interventions such as immunizations, deworming and vitamin A supplementation two times a year – saving tens of thousands of lives of the most vulnerable children in the world. Through this new grant, HKI will work with national governments and other partners (UNICEF and the Micronutrient Initiative) to transition support to country governments, maintain high coverage of essential child survival interventions including vitamin A supplementation, and scale up efforts in the poorest and most vulnerable populations most likely to benefit from essential child survival interventions.

Founded in 1915, Helen Keller International's mission is to save the sight and lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. HKI combats the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition by establishing programs based on evidence and research in vision, health and nutrition. Visit www.hki.org for more information.

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