Posts

childhood anemia in peruAnemia has always been a problem for the most vulnerable sectors in the Peruvian population, where access to basic needs, such as nutritional food and good healthcare, is scarce. These realities hit hard on the Peruvian Andes, where around 40 percent of families live in extreme poverty, and 30 percent of their children are severely malnourished, causing them to develop anemia.

The illness can be very damaging, especially for children. Fortunately for them, the 25-year-old, agro-industrial graduate Julio Garay, came up with a simple, yet very efficient solution: a cookie.

How A Cookie is Beating Childhood Anemia in Peru

Garay was born in a rural area located in the province of Ayacucho, where, due to the poor living conditions, one out of three children developed some anemic condition. He even had the illness at age five, which caused him growth and developmental problems later in life.

Luckily, he had the chance to fight back at the illness when he began to study agro-industrial engineering at the Saint Cristobal of Humanga University. For his final thesis, he decided to develop a nutritional cookie that will not only combat anemia in his hometown in Ayacucho, but all of Peru.

The Miracle Components

The cookie is a mix of different ingredients that are known for their high nutritional value: quinoa, bovine blood, kiwicha, chia and cacao. Coming to this final mix was not an easy task for Garay, since the first set of trials were unsuccessful in their mission of raising hemoglobin levels. They also had a sour taste due to the bovine blood that made it very difficult for a child to like.  To improve its taste, Garay decided to add cacao to the mix, improving the flavor significantly. The use of eggs mixed with bovine blood helped to raise the amount of iron supplement in the cookie to 20 mg, the highest in the market.

First Success

In the small community of Mollepate, in Garay’s native region of Ayacucho, the levels of childhood anemia are alarming. It was the perfect place to see if the cookie, later named Nutri Hierro, would significantly raise the standards of hemoglobin in the kids. The parents were instructed to give their kids one packet of Nutri Hierro per day for 30 days, to increase their chances of beating anemia. In the end, their children will go through another medical diagnosis to see if there was any improvement.
The results were favorable; the kids who at the beginning had 10 levels of hemoglobin raised those levels to 15 by the end of the month trial.

What Comes Next: Addressing Childhood Anemia in Peru

Many Peruvian laboratories and business enterprises had their eyes already set on this miracle cookie. However, despite many offers, Garay wanted to start his own company, especially after seeing Nutri Hierro was in high demand. Although he would have to sell his cookies at 50 cents for profit, he reduced the price to 25 cents, making it accessible to impoverished families. Other countries, such as Bolivia and Ecuador, have also requested the product.

Garay does not want to stop here. He is currently developing other dietary supplements that will help brain development in small children, as well as developing vegan options. Safe to say, there are high hopes to not only to eradicate anemia in the most impoverished provinces but also in all Peru.

– Adriana Ruiz
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in Impoverished CountriesAnemia is the most common nutritional problem in the world. There are over two billion people that are anemic. Tackling malnutrition in impoverished countries can be difficult, but the creators of the Lucky Iron Fish hope to alleviate a worldwide issue.

When the creator of the Lucky Iron Fish, Christopher Charles went to Cambodia, he found that there were many people suffering from iron deficiency and anemia. About half of the women and children in the entire country was not getting the proper amount of iron in their diets. That caused many people to be tired, suffer constant headaches, and even made them unable to work at times.

When Dr. Charles visited, there were no real solutions to this problem. Iron supplements were not widely available and even if people could get their hands on them, the iron supplements were too expensive. Cambodians also did not want to take the supplements due to various side effects.

Dr. Charles wanted to come up with a solution to all of these problems. The Lucky Iron Fish is the solution Cambodians were looking for.

The Lucky Iron Fish is a small iron fish that can be used to infuse foods with a healthy amount of iron. Iron supplements tend to have too much iron in them which can be detrimental to your health. The Lucky Iron Fish infuses meals with about 75 percent of the daily recommended iron so people are not getting too much iron in their meals, so there are no ill side effects.

Another problem with iron supplements is that people usually just do not like taking them. The Lucky Iron Fish is made to be cooked in food that people were going to eat anyways. When using the fish, they just need to boil it for 10 minutes along with their food and the meal is now iron-rich. Not only that, but the iron is tasteless so it does not affect the meals.

Cost is a major factor when dealing with malnutrition in impoverished countries. High cost can end up making the product unavailable to those who need it most.

The Lucky Iron Fish costs about 30 USD. So it is not too expensive so it can be bought by many people. Not only that, but the creators of the Iron Fish have a buy a fish give a fish program. Anyone who buys a fish will also end up giving a fish to a family who needs it.

30 USD can end up looking expensive for some because people think they have to replace it every couple of months. A single Lucky Iron Fish can end up being used for five years before needing replacing.

Tackling malnutrition in impoverished countries can be a challenge. The cost and effectiveness of a product can really reduce resources for impoverished countries to use. The Lucky Iron Fish tackles all of these issues to make sure people are getting the best product to tackle anemia and iron deficiency.

The original target for the Lucky Iron Fish was for Cambodians. Now anyone can buy them and the creators are hoping to send one million fishes worldwide by 2020.

– Daniel Borjas

Photo: Google

Hunger in Madagascar
While Madagascar was made famous by the 2005 DreamWorks animated movie about talking zoo animals, it is also one of the world’s poorest nations, with four million people suffering from lack of food access.

Drought, cyclones, floods and locust infestation worsen the case of hunger in Madagascar. Natural disasters are likely to grow worse with the continuation of climate change. Madagascar is one of the 10 nations most vulnerable to natural disasters affecting food security and nutrition.

Those who live in southern Madagascar are most likely to suffer from hunger because the lean season takes up a much longer portion of the year. The lean season is the period of time in between the harvest and the first plant of the next season. During this time, poor farmers and their families have little food or income on which to survive.

In 2016, a drought worsened by El Niño, an irregular and complex series of climatic changes, left 1.4 million people in Madagascar desperately short on food. These people are expected to face food shortages through 2017.

Crop failure causes people to take desperate measures to survive, such as selling their livestock and farming tools and moving into the wild to forage. Over 90% of Malagasies live below the poverty line.

Chronic malnutrition affects nearly half of all the children in Madagascar under five. Hunger in Madagascar also results in stunted growth in children and high mortality rates. Anemia is one of the biggest health issues in Malagasies facing hunger, with one-third of children under five and women suffering from iron deficiency.

More than six percent of children die before they reach five years old, and 500 out of every 100,000 live births result in the mother’s death. High levels of anemia lead to this high maternal mortality rate.

Collaborative Efforts Against Madagascar’s Hunger

Despite the bleak outlook caused by hunger in Madagascar, not all hope is lost. The World Food Program (WFP) works in conjunction with 30 other organizations to relieve Madagascar’s most vulnerable regions, including the South and poor urban areas.

This is done through:

  • Providing meals, nutritional information and promoting hygiene for children in schools;
  • Empowering smallholder farmers, who own small plots of land and harvest only a few cash crops, through increasing access to markets and supporting farmers’ associations;
  • Providing relief and early recovery assistance to households affected by natural disasters;
  • Placing food in remote and disaster-prone areas before incidents are expected to occur to prevent malnutrition;
  • Distributing cash assistance and food during the 2016-2017 prolonged lean season;
  • Assessing Madagascar’s vulnerability to shocks, coordinating livelihood activities and implementing community planning exercises.

To help relieve hunger in Madagascar, you can make a donation to the WFP.

Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr

Buying_Food_a_Struggle_in_the_Solomon_Islands
A child’s diet for the first 1,000 days of their life is crucial to developing both mentally and physically. Unfortunately, one-third of children under the age of five in the Solomon Islands are considered stunted—too small for their age due to malnutrition. Children who are stunted are often more susceptible to infections and diseases.

The Solomon Islands are not short on food resources.  There is a plethora of fish and sea food available; however, it is common for families to not have the funds required to purchase fresh fish or even canned tuna. Of the citizens who live in rural areas, 60 percent rely on food that they grow themselves. The Solomon Islands have ideal conditions for agriculture; however, those living in urban areas do not have access to land and are forced to purchase overpriced food that they simply cannot afford.

According to the Solomon Islands National Statistical Office, many people suffer from “hidden hunger,” meaning while things might not look physically dire, they are actually desperately lacking the proper nutrition to live long, healthy lives.

Solomon Island communities try to look out for each other and share food. Not only do the citizens highly value their family and friends, they also have their own “wantok”—their neighbors and extended family—who they share cheap food with. The cheapest foods can be bought in bulk like rice and noodles, but it can be very dangerous to live off these foods alone. The people of the Solomon Islands experience high rates of anemia and diarrhea from their lack of proper nutrition.

Also contributing to the lack of proper nutrients is overpopulation; the population of the Solomon Islands grows by 2.8 percent each year. More and more people are in need of food, with less and less of it being available due to the small income the islanders receive. Addressing this problem will involve taking a hard look at the economy and finding a way for citizens to receive an adequate income capable of consistently sustaining them.

– Melissa Binns

Sources: CGIRA, SPREP
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition Plagues Children
China became an economic superpower in only a matter of decades. Forbes Magazine’s annual rich list reported that China has had 152 billionaires this past year. The once struggling nation has shown promising improvement. According to the World Bank, the number of impoverished people living in China dropped from 683 million in 1990 to 157 million in 2009. This improvement is a result of the rapid urbanization in China in recent years. Greater economic opportunity and government assistance is now available in cities. However, children in rural villages are stuck in a seemingly unbreakable cycle of poverty.

The children of rural China face a variety of challenges that are virtually nonexistent in the cities. Among one of the most glaring is the struggle against malnutrition. UNICEF estimates that there are 12.7 million stunted children in China; this life-long condition that results from severe malnutrition plagues children most during early childhood.

In addition to malnutrition, anemia takes a tremendous toll on rural Chinese children. Stanford University conducted a test on 1824 babies in China’s Shaanxi Province. Forty nine percent of the babies tested were anemic and 28 percent were near anemic. Furthermore, of all the babies tested, 40 percent displayed cognitive or motor problems.

Why are rates of anemia so high? Stanford reports that while the parents were generally willing to spend additional money on food for their children, they were uninformed on what type of nutritional value the food should have. Many micronutrients, such as iron, were missing, indicating that fresh fruits and vegetables were consumed infrequently. Additionally, further investigation revealed that mothers stopped breastfeeding after six months. From that point on, the child would typically eat rice porridge or soups.

Misinformed parents are often responsible for their children’s poor health. Parents often do not introduce solid food into children’s diets until they are 12 to 18 months old, though it is recommended that solid food make up half of a one-year-old’s diet. Many parents believe myths that babies cannot digest hard foods or that particular foods, like rice, are better for cognitive development.

Treating anemia and replenishing nutrients is actually quite easy. Stanford researchers state that simply taking iron supplements can counter anemia. To address the rampant malnutrition in China’s poor, rural provinces, UNICEF has begun to distribute a nutrition supplement called Ying Yang Bao. Ying Yang Bao is a small packet of powdered vitamins, minerals and proteins that can be mixed into solid foods like porridge.

Many rural Chinese families cannot afford to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins like beef. Dairy products are also expensive and difficult to access. Often, noodles, porridge, rice and starches like potatoes constitute meals. Fortunately, the micronutrients in Ying Yang Bao are easily dissolved in porridges and soups.

UNICEF reports that, between 2008 and 2011, more than 30,000 rural children received Ying Yang Bao. After consumption, anemia levels were cut in half. A long-term solution to malnutrition is still in the works. While aid from UNICEF and other organizations is improving the health of rural children, education is a key issue to be addressed. Parents are misguided by myths and superstitions, which has led to the silent suffering on many children. A public education program has not been officially instituted, but would be another component of China’s long-term solution for malnutrition.

– Bridget Tobin

Sources: UNICEF, Stanford, World Bank, CNBC, The Guardian
Photo: China.org