A World Of Good: Global Health In The Eyes Of Arsema

When asked if Arsema ever gets sick, her mother replied, "Nothing!"

One thing unites us no matter where we live or how much money we make, and that's a desire to be both happy and healthy.

What's cool about that is, no matter your age, background, or the region where we reside, we all need many of the same vitamins. And how exciting is it knowing you can do your part to make sure others — and you — get what we need to reach optimum health?

Click on any of the photos above to learn about the unique vitamin needs of boys, girls, women, and men all over the world. Though they may differ, we can each learn how we can work toward our individual and common goal of living happy and healthy lives.

Meet Arsema.

Arsema is a 4-month-old who lives with her mother Moworke in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

For babies like Arsema to get a good healthy start, however, their mothers need a nutritious diet during pregnancy. Fortunately, Moworke had access to prenatal vitamins containing folic acid through Vitamin Angels, a nonprofit that distributes vitamins and minerals to children and mothers in need.

According to Save the Children's 16th annual State of the World's Mothers report, since 2000, Addis Ababa specifically has seen the mortality rate of children under the age 5 drop drastically, from 114 to 53 deaths per 1,000 births. While still high, the care mothers and their children receive during pregnancy and afterward has been key to this success.

Folic acid, according to the Spina Bifida Association, is a B-vitamin vital to women who are expecting, or trying to get pregnant, because it helps prevent neural tube defects. And the U.S. National Library of Medicine reports the neural tube defects can affect the development of a baby's brain, spine, or spinal cord. 

A daily dose of at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid is recommended for pregnant women, which could be consumed in a cup and a half of boiled spinach, though as many as 500 mcg may be recommended for pregnant women who are malnourished.

According to the National Institutes of Health, folic acid can naturally be found in many foods, such as dried beans, peas, lentils, oranges, and whole wheat products — some of which are available in Ethiopia — though due to poverty and other factors, many Ethiopians may not have access to them. In fact, 44 percent of children under the age of 5 are malnourished, according to The Borgen Project. And the country is currently experiencing its worst drought in 50 years, according to the Irish Timespotentially leading to a shortage in crops that could contain this vital mineral.

Moworke was especially fortunate to receive supplements with the proper vitamins during her pregnancy, but many mothers in Ethiopia are still in need. By expanding access to prenatal vitamins containing folic acid, the number of infants affected by neural tube defects can be reduced.

In countries such as the United States, Canada, and South Africa, there are fewer cases of neural tube defects, because folic acid is readily available.

Arsema's mother continues to take prenatal vitamins, as she exclusively breastfeeds. When asked if her daughter ever gets sick, she replied, "Nothing!"

Arsema and her mother are not the only people who need folic acid, however. Twenty-eight-year-old Stine from Norway also needs it. Click on Stine's photo, highlighted in yellow, to find out how they are connected by their vitamin need, or explore the rest of the profiles below.

Want to help people around the world get access to vitamins? For every purchase of vitamins and minerals at Walgreens, they will make a donation to Vitamin Angels.

Statements about vitamin deficiencies, the benefits of folic acid and recommended doses are not endorsed by or representative of opinions from Vitamin Angels.

Vitamin Angels Photos © Matt Dayka/Vitamin Angels