Brussels — One hundred and ninety million - that's more than the populations of Germany, France and Poland combined. It is also the number of children affected by vitamin A deficiency around the world.
An insufficient intake of this vital nutrient - found in foods like liver, carrots and kale - can be fatal and causes blindness in 250,000 to 500,000 children every year.
One hundred years after Polish scientist Casimir Funk formulated the concept of vitamins, substantial progress has been made in promoting awareness that proper nutrition is vital to health.
Yet much remains to be done, especially in the developing world, to spread awareness that simply solving the problem of hunger does not necessarily tackle the question of nutrition. Currently, 7.3 percent of the global health burden is caused by vitamin and nutrient deficiency.
Poverty is the leading cause of many vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamin A. Much of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa is affected by severe cases of vitamin A deficiency - since many diets in this part of the world include only staples. For instance, rice can represent up to 70 percent of caloric intake in many Asian countries, while cassava - rich in calories but poor in nutrients - is the main food source for many Africans.