Three and a half billion people are affected worldwide, a disease that affects people of all levels of income and the cause of $70 billion lost in overall GDP: anemia.

Anemia is a disease that results from the lack of iron in the human body. It can cause weakness, shortness of breath, headaches and dizziness and can prevent growth in children; however, it can also be cured with a simple little fish. This Lucky Fish is being used in Cambodia and has cut the rates of anemia in half. After a trip to Cambodia, Dr. Christopher Charles saw first-hand how terribly anemia was affecting the lives of children and women in the region, inspiring the development of the Lucky Iron Fish, which has been introduced to several villages within it.

The fish has always been an auspicious symbol in Cambodian culture, and it looks like this fish might just save their lives. Appearing as a smiling fish, about 7.5 centimeters and weighing no more than 200 grams, all one has to do is boil it in a saucepan along with food, add a dash of lemon to increase iron absorption, and they are all set. These fish are chemically designed to release 75 percent of a person’s daily need for iron and last a family for up to 5 years.

After having distributed several iron fish to Cambodian communities, the Lucky Iron Fish Project has seen a 50 percent decrease in the rates of anemia in just 9 months. This is a vast improvement from previous attempts at curing anemia with iron supplement pills; these proved to be too much of a hassle for many of the villagers. This fish is simple, convenient and easy to use. One woman spoke to the BBC and stated that she was “happy, the blood test results show that [she has] the iron deficiency problem, so [she hopes she] will be cured and will be healthy soon. [She thinks] all the people in Sekeroung village will like the fish, because fish is [their] everyday food.” Many NGOs face a lot of push-back from the communities they seek to help, so this kind of reaction is very promising.

When people do not have to worry about meals and nutrients, and no longer feel weak and tired all the time, a lot more innovation can occur. By focusing on the root of the issue and providing stable diets to these communities, they are being primed to become hubs of success. A developing country can develop faster when all of its citizens are able to put their best foot forward and think clearly. A lot of change can come from one little fish, and with countless people affected with anemia worldwide purchasing these fish, and “schools of fish” for Cambodia, it looks like a big difference can be made. This one little fish can really help the world to “just keep swimming.”

– Sumita Tellakat

Sources: The Lucky Iron Fish, BC Corporation, Science Alert, BBC
Photo: The Lucky Iron Fish