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Vitamin A Deficiency In Childhood

Adequate Vitamin A status is important for maintenance of good health and disease prevention. Vitamin A is needed for vision and eye health and may also protect children against other illnesses such as diarrhoea . Vitamin A is now recognised as a critical factor in child health and survival. It should therefore be a part of every child's daily diet.
Vitamin A comes from breastmilk, dark green leafy vegetables, and from orange or yellow fruits and vegetables such as carrots, papayas and mangoes.
Vitamin A deficiency is widely prevalent, particularly in the developing world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that as many as 228 million children are affected subclinically at a severe or moderate level by vitamin A deficiency, and that deficiency of this micronutrient is a problem in more than 75 countries. [ 1 ]
UNICEF states that 200,000 children go blind each year because they do not have enough vitamin A in their bodies. If a child has had diarrhoea or measles , vitamin A will be lost from the child's body. It can be replaced by breastfeeding more often, and by feeding the child more fruit and vegetables. [ 2 ]

Infections such as measles may precipitate a child into clinical VAD. In VAD areas, women of childbearing age are at high risk of VAD and its consequences because of increased vitamin A requirements during pregnancy and lactation. Their newborns, being vitamin A depleted, require vitamin A supplements. Otherwise, following the initial 4-6 months of nursing they are likely to develop VAD.
Improving the vitamin A status of deficient children and treating cases of measles with vitamin A, even in populations where xerophthalmia is rare, can reduce childhood morbidity and mortality substantially.

WHO and UNICEF have jointly adopted the goals for control and eventual elimination of micronutrient malnutrition. These include the elimination of vitamin A deficiency and all its health effects by the year 2000.

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. World Health Organisation, Information on Vaccine Preventable Diseases:
2. United Nations Children's Fund, Facts for Life :
3. The Micronutrient Initiative:

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Contact Last modified: Jun 25 2002