Importance of Vitamin A
Vitamin A is essential for child survival, health, growth and development. Vitamin A deficiency is also the leading cause of preventable childhood blindness. Children with even mild or moderate vitamin A deficiency have weaker immune systems and suffer from more respiratory infections, diarrhoeal diseases, malarial episodes and measles, contributing to an increased risk of death. By meeting the vitamin A needs (through supplementation, fortification or adequate diet) of children under five years in vitamin A-deficient areas, mortality rates in general could be reduced by up to 23 per cent. [GH Beaton et al., 1993. Read more in this publication from United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition.]
Vitamin A supplementation is a global health strategy to eliminate vitamin A deficiency and its tragic consequences. Since vitamin A can be stored in the body for a few months, two high-dose supplements per year are all that is required for young children. Children should receive their first vitamin A capsule at the age of six months.
Read the current WHO Guidelines on Vitamin A supplementation for preschool children.
“I never had data on the micronutrient situation in the district where I work. But from the [MICAH] baseline survey, the results we aggregated at the district level showed a real problem that needed immediate attention. I was fortunate to have MICAH in my district.” – Charles Kofi-bah, Ministry of Health, Ghana
Did you know?
Monitoring the coverage of vitamin A capsules to children six to 59 months within the previous six months can be used as a proxy measure of progress, especially where funding or lab capacity is not sufficient to assess biochemical indicators of vitamin A status.