Helen Keller International (HKI), a centenary institution, is widely recognized for developing, testing and scaling up programs to combat malnutrition, blindness and disability on a global scale, and for striving to integrate these evidenced-based strategies within local government and community structures so that they are sustainable.
Currently, HKI is developing more than 180 programs in 21 countries in Asia and Africa, where some of the most vulnerable populations live. As evidence of its reach, last year alone, working with national partners, Helen Keller International contributed to 54 million African children receiving twice-yearly vitamin A supplements. Its pioneering Homestead Food Production program has been one of its main tools for reaching poor communities in a sustainable way.
Hunger and low dietary diversity reduce cognitive function, physical capacity, resistance to disease and quality of life and lifetime earnings. Helen Keller International champions Homestead Food Production, an innovative, interdisciplinary program that promotes improved agricultural and nutritional practices in a synergistic fashion. This approach is mostly applied to communities that have difficult access to labor and food markets. The program encourages the cultivation and household consumption of a diverse selection of vegetables and fruits, with particular emphasis on species rich in vital micronutrients such as vitamin A and iron.
Helen Keller International has been actively examining and innovating in resolving delivery and implementation bottlenecks. For example, while micronutrient supplementation strategies primarily target children in the critical 1,000-day window because of their heightened nutritional needs, HKI has recognized that classical supplementation programs fail to reach at least 20 percent of children. Through its knowledge management approach and applied research, HKI has evolved its strategy to promote behavioral change in relation to nutrition, improving access and delivery.