Objective: To determine the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency in children aged 6-9 years in northern Ethiopia.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was carried out and the data were analysed for 824 (61.5%) of 1339 eligible children for whom there was complete information on biochemical vitamin A status, dietary vitamin A intake, ocular examination for xerophthalmia, and anthropometry.
Findings: The prevalence of xerophthalmia was 5.8%; serum retinol levels were below 0.35 mumol/l and between 0.35 and 0.70 mumol/l in 8.4% and 51.1% of the children respectively. The liver vitamin A reserve (modified relative dose response ratio > or = 0.06) was low in 41.0% of the children.
Conclusion: The high prevalence of severe vitamin A deficiency in children aged 6-9 years indicates the need to reevaluate the practice of targeting vitamin A supplementation programmes on children under 6 years of age in areas where vitamin A deficiency is endemic.