Vitamin A deficiency is an endemic nutrition problem throughout much of the developing world, especially affecting the health and survival of infants, young children, and pregnant and lactating women. These age and life-stage groups represent periods when both nutrition stress is high and diet likely to be chronically deficient in vitamin A. Approximately 127 million preschool-aged children and 7 million pregnant women are vitamin A deficient. Health consequences of vitamin A deficiency include mild to severe systemic effects on innate and acquired mechanisms of host resistance to infection and growth, increased burden of infectious morbidity, mild to severe (blinding) stages of xerophthalmia, and increased risk of mortality. These consequences are defined as vitamin A deficiency disorders (VADD). Globally, 4.4 million preschool children have xerophthalmia and 6 million mothers suffer night blindness during pregnancy. Both conditions are associated with increased risk of morbidity and mortality. While reductions of child mortality of 19-54% following vitamin A treatment have been widely reported, more recent work suggests that dosing newborns with vitamin A may, in some settings, lower infant mortality. Among women, one large trial has so far reported a > or = 40% reduction in mortality related to pregnancy with weekly, low-dose vitamin A supplementation. Epidemiologic data on vitamin A deficiency disorders can be useful in planning, designing, and targeting interventions.