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Vitamin A supplementation inadequate in India: Need for effective strategies

The Vitamin A supplementation programme was first initiated in India to help overcome Vitamin A deficiency and its tragic consequences. Although started initially in India, it now lags behind African and neighbouring countries //in terms of the implementation, according to recent report. The report entitled "Controlling Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies in India - Meeting The Goal" states that India has the largest percentage as well as the largest absolute number of Vitamin A deficient children in the world and precipitates the death of 330,000 children every year in the country.

Currently, only Bihar, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu have over 75 percent coverage under the national programme. A majority of the other states, including Delhi, have less than 50 percent coverage.

Around 57 percent of children under six years in India are estimated to be in potential danger of sub-clinical Vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children. In addition, it raises the risk of diseases and death from severe infections. In pregnant women, it causes night blindness and may increase the risk of maternal mortality.

"India has a lot of catching up to do even with other South Asian countries - Pakistan has achieved 100 percent coverage, with Nepal and Bangladesh not too far behind at 98 percent and 90 percent respectively," the report states.

The report has been prepared by the Indian wing of Canada's Micronutrients Initiative, and is to be presented to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday.

It is also estimated that nearly Rs.4.05 billion to Rs.5.85 billion annually has to be set apart to meet the goal. This accounts for less than Rs.5 per person to effectively tackle the problem of micronutrient deficiencies in the country.

Better management of existing programmes has been recommended by the international body to help tackle Vitamin A deficiency. It has been recommended t
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