Vitamin A deficiency and xerophthalmia among school-aged children in Southeastern Asia

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004 Oct;58(10):1342-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601973.


Objective: To determine provisional estimates of the extent of vitamin A (VA) deficiency and xerophthalmia among school-aged children.

Design: Literature search of published, unpublished and website-based population survey and study reports, with country-specific imputation of prevalence rates and numbers of children affected by: (1) VA deficiency based on measured or imputed distributions of serum retinol concentration < 0.70 micromol/l (equivalent to < 20 microg/dl) and (2) xerophthalmia, by country.

Setting: Countries within the WHO South-East Asian Region.

Subjects: The target group for estimation was children 5-15 y of age.

Interventions: None.

Results: The estimated prevalence of VA deficiency is 23.4%, suggesting that there are approximately 83 million VA-deficient school-aged children in the region, of whom 10.9% (9 million, at an overall prevalence of 2.6%) have mild xerophthalmia (night blindness or Bitot's spot). Potentially blinding corneal xerophthalmia appears to be negligible at this age.

Conclusions: VA deficiency, including mild xerophthalmia, appears to affect large numbers of school-aged children in South-East Asia. However, nationally representative data on the prevalence, risk factors and health consequences of VA deficiency among school-aged children are lacking within the region and globally, representing a future public health research priority.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asia, Southeastern / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / blood
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Prevalence
  • Public Health
  • Risk Factors
  • Vitamin A / blood*
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / epidemiology*
  • Xerophthalmia / blood
  • Xerophthalmia / epidemiology*


  • Vitamin A