Notes to broadcasters
The following drama describes how mothers can help protect their young children from dangerous childhood illnesses caused by a lack of vitamin A. We all need vitamins and minerals for strong bodies and healthy minds and to fight off disease. Children especially need vitamin A for their physical growth, for their eyesight, and to help their bodies resist infection and disease. Children who are deficient in vitamin A are more likely to die from measles, malaria, or diarrhoea than children who have enough of the vitamin. One of the most serious consequences of a lack of vitamin A is a condition known as “dry eye” which, if untreated, will eventually result in total blindness.
In many parts of the world where vitamin A deficiency in children is a serious problem, programs to distribute vitamin A capsules have been implemented. But many rural areas lack the infrastructure necessary for successful supplement programs. Therefore, the focus of this drama is on natural food sources of vitamin A. However, you might wish to research whether distribution programs are available in your area, and broadcast this information in your program.
This drama creates suspense about what happened to Martha’s firstborn child, Uchenna, and eventually explains why she is so interested in knowing about vitamin A. Though the ending is sad, it is designed to have a powerful effect on listeners so that they will remember the consequences of vitamin A deficiency.
You could use this drama as inspiration to produce a similar program on recommended practices for growing soybean in your area. Or you might choose to present this drama as part of your regular farmer program, using voice actors to represent the speakers.
As a follow-up to the drama, you might invite a health care worker and an agricultural expert to your program to answer questions about vitamin A. Remember to publicize their appearance the day or week prior to broadcasting the program so that listeners will have time to think about questions they can ask.
Estimated duration of the script: 15 minutes, with intro and extro music.
Nurse at health clinic
Martha: a young mother
We all know that a healthy diet means getting enough to eat, and eating the right kinds of foods. This is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for children. Children need essential nutrients, including vitamin A, to grow and develop into strong and healthy adults. On our program today, we’re going to talk about what can happen to children who don’t get enough vitamin A in the food they eat. More importantly, we’ll learn some simple ways to prevent this problem.
Children also need vitamin A to develop good eyesight. You might have heard of “night blindness.” This is often one of the first signs that your child is not getting enough vitamin A. If you notice that your child is having difficulty seeing at night, you should take immediate action to prevent total blindness.
Unfortunately, many children don’t get enough vitamin A in their diet. Let’s listen to a story to learn some very simple solutions to the problem of vitamin A deficiency.
FADE UP MUSIC AND HOLD FIVE SECONDS. FADE UNDER SOUND OF AN EIGHT-MONTH-OLD BABY LAUGHING AND GURGLING.
Footsteps walking up a dirt path. The sounds change to indicate they are now walking on a tile or concrete floor.
But Odinga looks like he’s getting enough vitamin A from your milk, and from the other foods you give him. He’s a good, healthy baby. As he eats more and more solid food, the vitamin will keep him healthy. A child is growing fastest when he begins to eat solid food. So between six months and six years of age, it’s very important for him to get enough of this important nutrient. That way he should be able to fight off diseases much better.
(Pause) Then, you won’t ever again need to make the long journey here with such a heavy heart as you did two years ago.
(Pause) Oh, look! Odinga is asleep. He’s so peaceful like that. Now, let’s go over those vitamin A-rich foods …
But think about what you have at hand. I know you raise chickens. Vitamin A is in their eggs. And you can also get vitamin A from leafy green vegetables like spinach, and from orange and yellow vegetables like squash, carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potato.
(To the baby) I’m sure little Odinga likes sweet potato. (To Martha) Orange fruits like mangoes, oranges, and papaya also have a rich supply of vitamin A.
(Laughing) And don’t worry, I never let it get so hot that the colour disappears. I know when that happens, the vitamin disappears too. I also remember that oil and fat are needed for the body to absorb vitamin A. And you mentioned that in some cases, health workers might give vitamin A capsules to children who need them.
(Pause) I’m thinking, Martha, that it might be a good idea for you to start a group for young and expectant mothers in your village. You could meet once a month. That way, you could keep them informed about important nutritional information for their children’s health.
Watch closely for symptoms of vitamin A deficiency in your children. Make sure you include foods that contain vitamin A in their diet. Find out if vitamin A capsules are distributed in your area. Your child’s life depends on it.
Thank you for listening today. I’m your host, ___.
This script was originally distributed in 1996 Package 69, Script 3. It was updated and then re-reviewed by Erika Rodning, Registered Dietician, Farm Radio International, Arusha, Tanzania.
Codjia, G. (2001). Food sources of vitamin A and provitamin A specific to Africa: an FAO perspective. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 22(4), 357-360. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/156482650102200403
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (1997). Agriculture food and nutrition for Africa – A resource book for teachers of agriculture. Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/docrep/w0078e/w0078e00.htm#TopOfPage
Gilbert, C. (2013). The eye signs of vitamin A deficiency. Community Eye Health, 26(84), 66–67. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/nutritional-disorders/vitamin-deficiency,-dependency,-and-toxicity/vitamin-a