Severe vitamin A deficiency is one of the major public health problems in Eastern Africa causing increased susceptibility to infections, and permanent damage to both eyesight and development. The most vulnerable groups are children younger than five and women of reproductive age.
Bioversity International looks into missing nutrients in a given population and the nutritional value of the staple foods that feature highly on the menu, to see if alternative varieties could be a better option. There are up to 1000 varieties of banana around the world, with different naturally-occurring levels of nutrients including Vitamin A, and they are a staple food in Eastern Africa, where people eat up to 11 bananas a day. One approach by Bioversity International is to look at how better use of banana diversity, using naturally-occurring vitamin-rich varieties, within food systems can improve nutrition.