There is the Hidden Hunger

Billions of people all over the world suffer from Hidden Hunger. For the sake of clarity, consider it as “hunger in stealth mode”, just like in the video mission games. Research has proved that he lack of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, iodine and iron, is the main cause of “hidden hunger” and malnutrition in the world today.

Fast Facts
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies account for 10% of the global health burden
  • People with deficiencies in key micronutrients suffer impaired development, disease and death
  • The poor, and especially women and children, in developing countries are the most vulnerable
  • 2 million children may die unnecessarily each year because they lack vitamin A, zinc or other nutrients.
  • 18 million babies are born mentally impaired due to iodine deficiency each year.
  • Iron deficiency undermines the health and energy of 40% of women in the developing world. Severe anemia kills more than 50,000 women a year during childbirth.

[quote_center]“Vitamin and mineral deficiency is the source of the most massive ‘hidden hunger’ and malnutrition in the world today. The ‘hidden hunger’ due to micro-nutrient deficiency does not produce hunger as we know it. You might not feel it in the belly, but it strikes at the core of your health and vitality. It remains widespread, posing devastating threats to health, education, economic growth and to human dignity in developing countries.”
~ Kul C. Gautam, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF.[/quote_center]

Micro-nutrient deficiencies, or hidden hunger, afflict more than two billion individuals, or one in three people, globally. The effects can be devastating, leading to mental impairment, poor health and productivity, and even death. The decline in immunity to infections, cognitive impairment, and decreased work capacity that can result from hidden hunger has important socioeconomic implications, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
Diets based mostly on staple crops, such as maize, wheat, rice, and cassava, which provide large amounts of energy but relatively low amounts of essential bio-available vitamins and minerals, frequently result in hidden hunger.

Many victims of hidden hunger live in developing countries and consume diets that do not give them the minerals and vitamins they need, usually because they cannot afford or cannot access a wide range of nutritious foods such as animal-source foods (meat, eggs, fish and dairy), as well as fruits and vegetables. In some cases they lack the nutrition knowledge to understand the importance of a balanced diet. In non-emergency situations, poverty is a major factor that limits access to adequate, nutritious foods. When food prices rise, consumers tend to maintain their level of staple food consumption while reducing their intake of non-staple foods that tend to be richer in micronutrients.

Approaches to dealing with hidden hunger require supply and demand as well as strong political commitment. All are needed for success. On the supply side, finding the right proven interventions for a population and ensuring their availability is essential, especially for the most vulnerable. Supplementation (iron and folic acid tablets during pregnancy), industrial fortification (salt iodization), bio-fortification (iron-bean, I know most Nigerians know iron bean. yes, they are beans bio-fortified with iron. vitamin A cassava and corn) and homestead gardening (raising chickens, growing vegetables) are some of them.

Awareness and action are key. Families, caregivers, policymakers, and healthcare providers from the public and private sectors can all play a part. For farmers, bio-fortified crops need to be profitable enough for smallholder farmers to adopt and to grow, at minimal risk. Private sector and governments need to provide incentives to support micro-nutrient interventions.

There have been successful stories in public health nutrition that calls for celebration. The success of vitamin A supplementation and salt iodization prove that continued commitment, funding, multi-sectoral integration, and collaboration, can lead to measurable improvements in coverage and ultimately, reducing prevalence of hidden hunger especially in society’s vulnerable groups.

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