Studies conducted by the Terma Foundation have found that 67% of Tibetan children clinically appear to suffer from rickets, which causes deformities of the skeletal system. Rickets is caused by vitamin D and calcium deficiencies that weaken the immune system, causing children to be vulnerable to severe childhood diseases including pneumonia and tuberculosis. Rickets can cause pelvic deformities in young girls, which can predispose them to later difficulty during childbirth.
What Terma is Doing
Chukpas are a low-cost, low-tech solution to a life-threatening Vitamin D deficiency that leads to illnesses such as rickets, which results in deformities of the skeleton and cartilage. Vitamin D is not available in the local diet and can only be naturally derived from sunbathing. Sunbathing and Vitamin D supplementation also help increase immunity to other infectious diseases, including TB. In addition to the increase in infant sunbathing, Terma distributed donated multivitamins with sufficient Vitamin D to cure rickets.
In post-training surveys Terma has found that 100% of the families involved in the program still practice sunbathing with their children at least once a month. Families recognize the benefits of sunbathing their children, and they also describe supportive cultural beliefs, such as sunbathing as a method of preventing hair growth on the body. The families were aware of pelvic deformities caused by rickets, but were most concerned about the subsequent inability of children to sit cross-legged, rather than potential problems in childbirth.
During rickets education and training sessions, the signs of rickets—such as deformed foreheads, chests, and legs—are demonstrated to mothers on their own children. The field teams then teach the parents how to sunbathe children using traditional oils and methods. Each mother receives soap and vegetable oil to continue the sunbathing on their own.