Ways to Combat Iron Deficiency in Developing CountriesAnemia is most prevalent in developing countries. Pregnant women and young children are the most likely to contract anemia. A person with anemia can suffer from fatigue, increased risk of mortality and irreversible cognitive damage. As of now, iron deficiency is the leading cause of anemia. The following list offers five ways to combat iron deficiency in developing countries.

5 Ways to Combat Iron Deficiency in Developing Countries

  1. Giving Pregnant Women Iron: Studies have shown that giving pregnant women iron increases healthy child outcomes and reduces the risk of anemia in their children. Pregnant women in Indonesia who took iron during their pregnancy reduced their children’s risk of mortality by 40 percent. Similarly, Chinese women who took iron supplements throughout their pregnancy found that child mortality rates decreased throughout the first seven years of life.
  2. Cooking with Iron: A major problem in developing countries is the lack of nutrition in their diets. A staple food in many developing countries is rice, which offers little to no nutritional value. The need for developing countries to include iron in their daily diets is evident. One way to accomplish this is through the usage of a recent technological innovation: the iron fish. The iron fish is an invention that when boiled, releases the recommended daily amount of iron.
  3. Biofortification: Iron deficiency is largely caused by malnutrition. Many people in developing countries have little access to nutritious food sources such as vegetables, dairy and fruit, as these items tend to be costly. To combat this problem, scientists have tried to find ways to infuse the starchy staples of developing countries with iron.  Geneticist Alex Johnson has led the charge in biofortification. He has sought to create a genetically modified rice that will produce more iron. The field tests of Johnson’s rice have been promising. These results suggest that through genetically modified food, people in developing countries can have healthier diets.
  4. Iron Supplements and Powders: Researchers believe that it would be possible to rid the world of iron deficiency through the usage of iron supplements. Iron supplements are cost-effective and can cost as little as 15 cents. The World Health Organization suggests that women and children who inhabit areas where the anemia level exceeds 20 percent to take daily iron supplements. For infant children who do not have access to healthy foods, the World Health Organization prefers to recommend micronutrient powders. Micronutrient powders have reduced anemia by 31 percent and iron deficiency by 51 percent. Micronutrient powders and iron supplements have both had enormous success in decreasing iron deficiency, but it has yet to be determined which approach is more effective.
  5. Deworming: Intestinal worms are cited as the most common intestinal disease in the developing world. The Copenhagen Consensus has suggested deworming as a way to decrease malnutrition and iron deficiencies.  Recent studies have shown an increased correlation between the number of individuals who suffer from hookworm infections to those who suffer from anemia. Hookworms drain necessary nutrients from the body and hinder the body’s ability to hold iron, and as a result, a person can become anemic. By eradicating these worms before they have a chance to do permanent damage, developing countries can take a proactive approach to their anemia problem.

Iron deficiency continues to be the leading cause of anemia in the world. While this threat remains imminent, the good news is that the world has equipped itself to fight this epidemic.

– Gabriella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr