Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children, and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections. For children, lack of vitamin A causes severe visual impairment and blindness, and significantly increases the risk of severe illness, and even death, from such common childhood infections as diarrheal disease and measles. An estimated 250 million preschool children are vitamin A deficient. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 vitamin A deficient children become blind every year, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight.
In pregnant women, VAD causes night blindness and may increase the risk of maternal mortality. For pregnant women in high-risk areas, vitamin A deficiency occurs especially during the last trimester when demand by both the unborn child and the mother is highest. The mother’s deficiency is demonstrated by the high prevalence of night blindness during this period.
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. 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.
World Health Organization, Micronutrient deficiencies,
Vitamin A deficiency