To assess the coverage of Vitamin A Supplemenation (VAS) and its association with common childhood illnesses (fever, diarrhea, acute respiratory infection (ARI) and anemia) in children 6-59 months in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
The study was conducted based on the secondary data of 27 Demographic and Health Surveys conducted in the sub-continent from 2010 to 2014. The data of 155,318 children were included in the analysis. The VAS status in the preceding 6 months and occurrence of the illnesses in the past two weeks of the surveys was determined based on the reports of the caregivers. Hemoglobin status was determined using the Hemocue method. Data were analyzed via multivariate binary logistic regression adjusted for basic socio-demographic variables. The outputs of the analysis are presented using adjusted odds ratio (AOR) with the respective 95% confidence interval (CI).
The coverage of VAS was 56.3% (95% CI: 56.1-56.5%). Among the 28 countries represented, six (Rwanda, Senegal, Malawi, Namibia, Serra Leone and Togo) achieved 80% or higher coverage; whereas, four (Guinea, Nigeria, Comoros and Benin) had low (< 50%) coverage. Paradoxically, VAS was associated with higher odds of fever (AOR=1.20 (95% CI: 1.17-1.23)), diarrhea (AOR=1.16 (95% CI: 1.13-1.20) and ARI (AOR=1.23 (95%: 1.17-1.29). Conversely, supplemented children had significantly higher hemoglobin and 10.8% (95% CI: 8.2-13.3%) reduced odds of anemia (Hemoglobin < 11.0 g/dl).
The effect of routine VAS on the childhood morbidity should be further evaluated through controlled trials.