7.5.1  Strategies for the control of vitamin A deficiency

The main strategies which have been adapted globally to control and eliminate vitamin A deficiency are explained below:

Promote and support exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age

As you read in earlier study sessions, breastmilk protects infants in their first six months against infectious diseases that can deplete vitamin A stores and interfere with vitamin A absorption. The vitamin A intake of a breastfed child depends on the vitamin A status of the mother, the stage of lactation, and the quantity of breastmilk consumed. From birth to about six months of age, exclusive, frequent breastfeeding can provide the infant with all the vitamin A needed for optimal health, growth and development. Therefore, exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age helps ensure sufficient vitamin A intake. Figure 7.1 below shows a poster that advertised the importance of breastfeeding for young babies.

Mother breastfeeding her baby
Figure 7.1  Picture of a mother breastfeeding her baby. (Federal Ministry of Health, 2010, Poster for Breastfeeding Week)

Vitamin A supplementation (VAS)

Supplementation is a low-cost and highly effective means of improving vitamin A status, and the quickest intervention that can be implemented on a national scale.

  • Vitamin A capsules given twice yearly at six months intervals to children 6 to 59 months is protective, and sufficient for a child’s requirement
  • Vitamin A capsules given to postpartum mothers within 45 days after delivery increases the amount of the vitamin A in the breastmilk and therefore the infant’s intake of vitamin A.
  • Dietary approaches are also important and include:
    • Fortification which is the process of adding vitamin A to foods commonly consumed by vulnerable population. It is an effective and sustainable strategy to combat vitamin A deficiency
    • As well as breastfeeding, home gardens are also an essential component of vitamin A deficiency reduction programmes.

7.5  Strategies to control vitamin A, iodine and iron deficiencies

7.5.2  Estimating vitamin A supplements requirements