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close this bookScurvy and its Prevention and Control in Major Emergencies (WHO; 1999; 70 pages)
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentScurvy: definition
open this folder and view contentsIntroduction
open this folder and view contentsScurvy
open this folder and view contentsVitamin C
open this folder and view contentsRecommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
open this folder and view contentsSources of vitamin C
open this folder and view contentsStrategies to prevent scurvy in large refugee populations
View the documentCosts
close this folderConclusions and recommendations
close this folderPrimary strategies
View the documentNatural sources of vitamin C
View the documentVitamin C-fortified foods
View the documentVitamin C supplements
View the documentSupporting strategies
View the documentReferences
View the documentAnnex 1
View the documentAnnex 2
View the documentAnnex 3
View the documentBack Cover

Natural sources of vitamin C

The following approach is to be considered where vegetables, tubers and fruits can easily be produced or procured locally:

Promote and support household production of fruits, vegetables and tubers. The local cultivation of vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, onions and leafy greens and tubers such as potatoes and sweet potatoes should be strongly promoted from the beginning as a long term strategy. Horticultural materials, water, and expertise in this area needs to be provided where and when feasible. Fruits, vegetables and tubers contribute useful amounts of iron and carotene as well as vitamin C. This approach should also encourage better dietary patterns on a long-term basis. The drawbacks are often poor environmental conditions e.g. lack of access to good quality land and adequate regular water supply, and even under optimal conditions it may take 2-3 months for the natural sources of vitamin C to be ready for consumption. There is therefore a need for an alternative intervention strategy to ensure adequate vitamin C intakes during the initial 2-3 months of an emergency.

In situations where vegetables, tubers and fruits can be easily produced locally and are already available on the market:

Distribute fruits, vegetables and tubers. The distribution of vitamin C-rich foods e.g. fruits, vegetables and tubers, as part of the general ration should be one of the first options where feasible. It is likely to be a temporary measure but is relatively costly.

Increase the general ration by about 10% and encourage the sale and/or barter of a portion of the ration in exchange for locally available fruits and vegetables. The most effective and least costly way of enabling emergency-affected populations to cover their vitamin C and other micronutrient requirements is probably to increase the general ration by about 10% above the basic requirements. Several studies have shown that the larger the ration provided, the greater is the trading of foodstuff, resulting in greater consumption of fruit and vegetables. Sale and/or barter of a portion of the ration should be encouraged where markets are available. The same approach is advocated for those seeking to alleviate economic hardship and dependency of severely affected populations and the lack of resources to meet other basic needs. One of the major constraints for increasing the ration, say, by 10%, is the availability of sufficient food resources, since in the field, refugees frequently do not receive sufficient quantities of even the general ration.

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