10 Reasons We Need to Tackle Hidden Hunger

14 Apr 2015

Hunger is more than just not having enough to eat. Not getting enough essential vitamins and minerals leads to micronutrient deficiencies, or ‘hidden hunger’. In an effort to make this form of undernutrition less hidden, here are ten things you might not know about micronutrient deficiencies:

[caption id="attachment_15676" align="alignleft" width="300"]Photo: Sanjit Das/RESULTS UK Photo: Sanjit Das/RESULTS UK[/caption] 1. Over 2 billion people suffer from deficiencies of vital vitamins and minerals, more than twice those that go hungry. [1] 2. Micronutrient deficiencies are estimated to cause around 1/3 of the 3.1 million deaths caused due to underlying undernutrition in children less than five years of age. 3. 50% of pregnant women in developing countries suffer from anaemia. Not only does this underlie about 20% maternal mortality, it results in the birth of low birth weight babies who suffer from variable physical and cognitive impairment. [2] 4. Zinc deficiency is responsible for 16% of lower respiratory tract infections (RTIs), 10% of diarrhoeal disease, and 18% of malaria worldwide. These three conditions are leading killers of children under the age of five. 5. Iodine deficiency impairs mental function in 18 million children born every year. [3] 6. Countries lose around 2-3% of GDP on account of micronutrient deficiencies and undernutrition; around 1.4-2.1 trillion. [4] 7. Only 5 out of 185 countries with data on anaemia are on course to meet the World Health Assembly target for anaemia reduction by 2025. [5] 8. Micronutrient interventions (including supplementation for children, fortification, and biofortification) are considered amongst the five best and most cost-effective health interventions. 9. Micronutrient interventions are low cost: Flour fortification with iron costs only $ 0.12 per person/year, and salt iodization costs just $ 0.05 per person/ year. [6] 10. Evidence shows that investing in micronutrient interventions, would generate a benefit to cost ratio of around 13:1 and up to as much as 30:1, with improved health across life span, fewer child deaths, and increased future earnings.[7] Micronutrient interventions are one of the most cost effective health interventions available, however funding for them is low. More money is needed to boost the availability, outreach and quality of micronutrient interventions, improve monitoring and data on progress and challenges, and to support the scale up of interventions that improve overall quantity, quality, and affordability of diverse and nutrient rich diets. We’ll be looking for your help in the future to help us bring attention to the importance of micronutrient interventions. The first step to that would be to share this article, and make ‘hidden hunger’ less hidden! [1] The Global Hunger Index, 2014 [2] The World Health Organisation [3] Investing in the future. A united call to action on vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Global Report, 2009 [4] The State of Food and Agriculture, FAO, 2013 [5] The Global Nutrition Report, 2014 [6] Horton, S, Mannar, V, & Wesley,  A. 2008. Food fortification with Iron and Iodine. Best Practice Paper. Copenhagen Consensus Centre Working paper. [7] The Lancet Child and Maternal Health Series, 2013

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Naveed Chaudhri

Head of Campaigns

Naveed Chaudhri is the Head of Campaigns. Naveed’s passion is to help build grassroots campaigns networks to increase public support for improving the lives of people in poor communities. Previously working at Oxfam and VSO, he has long experience managing activism and campaigning programmes,...


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