The most recent data about vitamin A deficiency in the Philippines comes from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute’s (FNRI) 7th National Nutrition Survey in 2008. Vitamin A deficiency affects 15.2% of children aged 6 months to 5 years, an improvement from the 2003 survey which found 40% of children were suffering from vitamin A deficiency. The prevalence of vitamin A deficiency among pregnant women also decreased. The exact reasons for these improvements have not been determined, but they may be the results of proven approaches to prevent vitamin A deficiency, such as vitamin A supplementation, dietary diversification, food fortification and promotion of optimal breastfeeding.
Yet vitamin A deficiency remains a public health problem in the Philippines, affecting more than 1.7 million children under the age of five and 500,000 pregnant and nursing women. Many of them live in areas that are difficult to reach with existing programs. Studies have shown that providing adequate amounts of vitamin A can reduce overall child mortality from common illnesses (including measles, severe pneumonia, and persistent diarrhea) by 23-34%.
Golden Rice could be a sustainable and cost-effective way to help those still affected by vitamin A deficiency in the Philippines, including some of the most vulnerable children and women, if it is found to be safe, shown to improve vitamin A status and used in combination with existing programs.