Global malnutrition and poverty usually coexist. Poverty can cause malnutrition through food insecurity and malnutrition can cause poverty by reducing a population’s potential economic output. Oftentimes, malnutrition is adversely associated with an individual’s susceptibility to disease and physiological development. However, malnutrition’s harm to an individual’s mental capacity and intellectual development is equally as important. When someone lacks crucial nutrients to nourish their physical and cognitive health, their abilities to achieve individual prosperity and contribute to their community face exposure to significant risk.
While social and fiscal development across the world has eased the devastating effects of malnutrition, nearly 800 million people still lack adequate nutrition. According to a Frontiers in Public Health article, the majority of that population resides in low-to-middle-income nations, largely within South Asia and Southern Africa. Fortunately, social entrepreneurs, food scientists and advocacy workers have been collaborating and innovating to resolve the issue.
Fighting Global Malnutrition with The Life-Saving Dot
Some of the most effective poverty solutions establish synergistic partnerships with existing cultures; The Life Saving Dot provides an excellent paradigm for this type of success.
Many Indian women wear a bindi—a small decorative dot on their forehead—for religious purposes or to show marital status. Grey for Good, a humanitarian organization under Grey Advertising agency, wanted to find a way to use the bindi to solve iodine deficiency, a major issue in rural India.
Iodine is typically found in salt, seafood and soil. It is a critical mineral for managing thyroid hormone release alongside physical and intellectual development and women are at particularly high risk for deficiency. Iodine also plays a key role in healthy pregnancies. In India, the prominence of vegetarianism and the contents of the soil makes it very difficult to get the necessary levels of the mineral, according to TIME. About 350 million Indians are at high risk for iodine deficiency, The Index Project reports.
The solution? A wearable iodine patch in the form of a bindi. The Life-Saving Dot delivers about 200 micrograms of iodine each day to women who wear it and it only costs 16 cents for a packet of 30 bindis. The product, which the Life Saving Dot initially distributed to women in rural Maharashtra, is now available at clinics throughout rural India. Furthermore, the project has also partnered with Talwar, a major bindi distributor across India, to promote the product.
Fighting Global Malnutrition with The Lucky Iron Fish
Around 15 years ago, Canadian student Christopher Charles was sitting in his stilted house in a rural part of Cambodia wondering how to best distribute iron tablets to fight local malnutrition. Charles had been researching the prominence of parasitic illnesses and anemia in the region and linked it to the critical iron deficiency that nearly half of Cambodia suffers from. He knew of existing iron tablets to help deliver nutrition, but also knew that compliance rates were poor; thus, he embarked on a mission to create a product people would actually use.
He drew on the significance of fish as a symbol of luck and prosperity in rural Cambodian culture and designed The Lucky Iron Fish, a small fish-shaped block for villagers to drop in their cooking pots. According to NPR, the block slowly releases iron into villagers’ food as their water boils.
In the product’s initial clinical trial, which consisted of 230 people, there was a promising 50% decrease in anemia after nine months.
Sot Mot, a 60-year-old woman living near Phnom Penh attested to the efficacy of the Lucky Iron Fish in an interview with NPR. “Before, I felt tired and lazy and my chest shook when I was tired,” Mot shared “But after I use the fish, I have strength and energy to work and I sleep well, too.”
Fighting Global Malnutrition with Plumpy’Sup
Rather than focusing on a singular mineral, Plumpy’Sup tackles global malnutrition from a holistic perspective, aiming to deliver a variety of crucial nutrients to infants and those suffering acute malnutrition.
Children in developing nations are at the highest risk for nutritional deficiencies and Plumpy’Sup has proven to be a powerful on-the-ground solution. The product is a lipid-centric nutritional supplement that has exceeded the nutritional benefits of popular fortified flour blends. It contains key levels of fatty acids, calcium, phosphorus and potassium, as well as Vitamins A, B, C, D and E.
Conveniently, children can also consume Plumpy’Sup directly from the package with no cooking or dilution necessary. The product’s design is child-friendly, so young children can open and consume it independently.
Since 2005, Plumpy’Sup’s developing company, Nutriset, has been organizing a global network of Plumpy producers to oversee the quality and accessibility of the product. Currently, countries that are locally making the nutritional supplement include Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, the U.S., Madagascar, Niger and Sudan.
Moving Forward in the Fight Against Global Malnutrition
Overall, ongoing efforts to fight nutritional deficiencies utilize innovation, cultural synergy and the promotion of self-sufficiency. These initiatives provide a compelling success model for combatting nutritional deficiencies, inspiring hope for subsequent success stories.
– Elena Unger