SEATTLE, Washington — In 2016, 815 million people suffered from malnutrition. That’s more than 10% of the global population. Malnutrition puts children at a higher risk for infections and lowers their immune system’s response, causing a higher mortality rate in suffering countries. Around is 45% of children under five die from undernutrition. Proper feeding and access to clean drinking water are essential lowering the mortality rate. One company is combatting malnutrition with and iron fish.
What is Malnutrition?
Malnutrition refers to deficient amounts of energy intake or lack of proper nutrients. Malnutrition can be broken into three different categories:
- Undernutrition– refers to being underweight or under-height for age
- Micronutrient related malnutrition– Refers to the lack of sufficient intake of vitamins and minerals needed
- Obesity/non-communicable diseases– refers to a lack of a healthy diet or diseases such as high cholesterol, diabetes and cancer.
Many of the countries most affected by hunger and malnutrition are in Africa. The Global Hunger Index listed Chad as is the most impacted with a 44.7 index rating. Timor-Leste and Madagascar rank the next highest at an index of 37.6 and 36 respectively. Although the United States malnutrition death rate has been rising since 1990, its peak was .71 deaths per 100,000 in 2015.
Causes of Malnutrition
Malnutrition has many causes but the most widely known is low food intake. Low food intake can happen for a variety of reasons including not having access to food or a disorder that leads to difficulty absorbing nutrients. People with eating disorders, women and children have a higher risk of malnutrition than the rest of the population.
Another major cause is poverty. From 1982 to 2002 extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa increased from 164 million to more than 313 million people. Poverty makes victims more susceptible to diseases. For example, HIV and AIDS are common in poverty-stricken areas. They are “a leading cause of acute malnutrition in developing countries.” Lack of access to housing stability or a stable income also lead to poverty and well. Furthermore, war and conflict cause severe poverty and malnourishment.
Effects of Malnutrition
Malnutrition has many substantial effects. It can cause difficulty breathing and an increased risk of hypothermia. In addition, it lowers the body’s immune response, which makes one susceptible to disease. As a result, it takes longer to heal from diseases and wounds. Those suffering from malnutrition are more likely to live in extreme poverty and have limited food access. Therefore, solving malnutrition is a crucial step in eliminating global poverty and hunger.
Lucky Iron Fish
Malnutrition can cause iron-deficiency anemia. This type of anemia happens when someone doesn’t have enough iron in their blood. It affects 30% of the population globally. In 2012, Gavin Armstrong invented Lucky Iron Fish, a small fish-shaped iron tab designed to address the high malnutrition rates in Cambodia. From there the idea continued, turning into a key player in the supplements industry. Lucky Iron Fish is simply dropped into boiling liquid for ten minutes. It releases up to 75% of the daily recommended iron. Once the fish has cooled down, it can be dried off and placed back into the box for use.
While Lucky Iron fish might be a relatively young start-up, the company is already making a meaningful impact. More than 150,000 users on five continents have used the product and the results have already been seen in the communities. Mom2Moms, a company based and serving in Uganda, partnered with the company to provide iron fish to women and children in their communities. “The Lucky Iron Fish will be so helpful in maintaining the children’s health,” said the founder and director of Urafiki Program.
Lucky Iron fish employs many disabled citizens who would otherwise have limited access to employment. Its eco-friendly packaging is produced by local Cambodians. Currently, 815 million people suffer from malnutrition, and the number continues to increase. Lucky Iron Fish is combatting malnutrition in developing countries by providing nutrients even with limited access to food; all that’s needed is water. Malnutrition is a solvable problem; all it takes is one little fish.
– Breanna Bonner
Photo: Wikimedia Commons