Vitamin A deficiency VAD is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections. In pregnant women VAD causes night blindness and may increase the risk of maternal mortality. Vitamin A deficiency is a public health problem in more than half of all countries, especially in Africa and South-East Asia, hitting hardest young children and pregnant women in low-income countries.
Crucial for maternal and child survival, supplying adequate vitamin A in high-risk areas can significantly reduce mortality. Conversely, its absence causes a needlessly high risk of disease and death. To successfully combat VAD, short-term interventions and proper infant feeding must be backed up by long-term sustainable solutions. The basis for lifelong health begins in childhood.
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Vitamin A is a crucial component. Since breast milk is a natural source of vitamin A, promoting breastfeeding is the best way to protect babies from VAD. However, because breastfeeding is time-limited and the effect of vitamin A supplementation capsules lasts only months, they are only initial steps towards ensuring better overall nutrition and not long-term solutions.
Cultivating the garden, both literally and figuratively, is the next phase necessary to achieve long-term results.
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They are completely polygamous. And after about 10 weeks, the puppies fend for themselves. A three-legged dog in Gallipoli, Turkey. She survived being struck by a car, and locals started calling her Lucky. They have remarkably varied connections to human beings. Some live completely on their own at dumps.
Some are neighborhood dogs, recognized and perhaps given handouts by people who live in a certain area.
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Others may feed and breed on their own, but spend nights at the homes of people. Sometimes they are adopted by people. But really, Dr. Coppinger says, it is the dogs who adopt humans. The number of dogs that can survive in a city or a neighborhood or at a dump is determined by the available garbage. The Coppingers calculated that in the tropics it takes about people to produce enough garbage to support seven free-living dogs.
There is precious little funding for studying these dogs, except in the context of preventing rabies, which is an enormous problem, with close to 60, human deaths a year , mostly from dog bites. But some scientists have tracked their behavior. Sunil K. Pal in India has studied them and written a number of papers on their social lives and behavior. The Coppingers were joined for the recent conversation at their home by Kathryn Lord, a former student of Dr.
Coppinger and now a researcher at Hampshire College, who studies the development and reproductive behavior of dogs, including village dogs. She shared her insights on what makes a dog a dog, and not a wolf, for example. Wolf puppies depend on their parents and other adults regurgitating partly digested food. It does happen, but reports suggest that in village dogs it may occur several times a week. In one experiment, she tried testing adult wolves by putting them into a pen with unrelated pups after a big steak meal.
The point the Coppingers and Dr. Lord make about these behaviors is not that dogs are somehow less caring or noble than wolves, but how perfectly adapted they are to the lives they lead. As Dr.
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Puppies, after they are weaned, cannot compete with adults, so unless disease or dogcatchers have put a dent in the adult population, most of them starve. They have a true superpower in reserve, however, that can help them escape their fate. They can convince a human to feed them. Coppinger recalled a woman in South Africa who had many dogs in and around her house.
He asked her how it happened that she had so many dogs. But what are village dogs? Are they a breed, or a superbreed apart? Or are they just a mixture of many breeds with origins too messy to trace? One of his research papers concluded that village dogs in Mongolia are at the center of dog diversity. That suggests that they are geographically nearest to the place where dogs first evolved. Other evidence has suggested that dogs originated in Europe or China, however, and Dr. Boyko is one of a number of participants in a major study being led by Greger Larson at Oxford to use ancient DNA and fossils to clear up some of the confusion about the origins of dogs.
And other village dogs seem to have different genetic makeup.
For example, Dr. Boyko and his colleagues analyzed DNA samples from village dogs on remote islands in Fiji and French Polynesia that he hoped would show a historical pattern of migration as people and their dogs moved from place to place. Dogs in other places, like Borneo, he said, show almost no trace of European breeds. In a study published last fall , Wieslaw Bogdanowicz at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw led an international team of scientists in analyzing the DNA of free-breeding dogs in Eurasia. He concluded that these dogs were different from purebreds and mixed breeds.
He also found that modern European street dogs trace their ancestry to East Asian dogs that migrated with humans to Europe. Earlier studies place that migration sometime between 4, and 11, years ago.
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Beyond that, however, lies the ultimate origin of dogs, which is still clouded in mystery. The consensus among scientists is that dogs evolved from ancient wolves, perhaps ones not found in the fossil record, 15, or more years ago. But this idea has little support from other scientists. They represent a treasure trove of scientific information.
Although the Coppingers recognize the social cost of animals that are unvaccinated and running free, they argue that killing the dogs, as some countries do during rabies epidemics, does not help. Nor do the Coppingers have any sympathy for rescue groups that, as Dr. Coppinger argues that they are taken from a rich social environment, with many dogs, to lives of relative isolation. What to do? The Coppingers suggest a simple answer.
One way or another village dogs depend on garbage. Like the Science Times page on Facebook. Sign up for the Science Times newsletter. Supported by.