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Food Nutr Bull. 2005 Dec;26(4):348-55.

Vitamin A deficiency and child survival in sub-Saharan Africa: a reappraisal of challenges and opportunities.

Author information

1
UNICEF Regional Office for West and Central Africa, Dakar, Senegal. vaguayo@unicef.org

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Children with vitamin A deficiency have higher risk of morbidity and mortality than vitamin A-sufficient children. Estimates on the potential child survival benefits of vitamin A deficiency control are needed for policy and program advocacy.

OBJECTIVE:

To determine the current prevalence of children at risk for vitamin A deficiency in sub-Saharan Africa in order to estimate the potential child-survival benefits of effective and sustained policies and programs for the control of vitamin A deficiency in this region.

METHODS:

Estimates of the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency generated in 1998, data from 11 nationally representative vitamin A deficiency surveys conducted in sub-Saharan Africa between 1997 and 2003, and the measured effects of vitamin A deficiency on child mortality were combined to estimate the prevalence of children at risk for vitamin A deficiency in sub-Saharan Africa and the potential child-survival benefits of effective and sustained policies and programs for the control of vitamin A deficiency in this region.

RESULTS:

Our analysis shows that in the absence of effective and sustained policies and programs for the control of vitamin A deficiency, an estimated 42.4% of children 0 to 59 months of age in sub-Saharan Africa (43.2 million children) are at risk for vitamin A deficiency. Such effective and sustained policy and program action for the control of vitamin A deficiency can bring about a potential 25% reduction in mortality in children 0 to 59 months with respect to 1995 mortality levels (i.e., before the onset of large-scale vitamin A supplementation programs in sub-Saharan Africa).

CONCLUSIONS:

Effective and sustained control of vitamin A deficiency has the potential to be among the most cost-effective and high-impact child-survival interventions in sub-Saharan Africa. A stronger political commitment and a more appropriate level of investment in the effective control of vitamin A deficiency could make a large contribution toward the attainment of the Millennium Development Goal for the reduction of child mortality rates by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. Among the many challenges that Africa will need to face in the coming years, vitamin A deficiency is one that can be overcome. The need is urgent, and the solutions are known, effective, and affordable.

PMID:
16465981
DOI:
10.1177/156482650502600404
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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