Tackling the hidden hunger of micronutrient malnutrition

October 15, 2009 by PATH

World Food Day is October 16, 2009

Fortifying staple foods, such as providing Ultra Rice in India’s midday meal program for children, can help the billions of people in the developing world who suffer from micronutrient malnutrition. Photo: Satvir Malhotra.

On World Food Day, PATH joins partners in calling global attention to micronutrient malnutrition, an often hidden problem that contributes substantially to the global burden of disease—especially high rates of child morbidity and mortality—and dramatically reduces the work productivity of entire populations. Experts have long concluded that reducing child deaths from malnutrition requires preventing mild and moderate malnutrition—not just severe, acute malnutrition.

World Food Day is a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding, and informed action to alleviate hunger. It is observed in recognition of the founding of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945.

PATH’s work in nutrition

Alongside our work on USAID’s Infant and Young Child Nutrition (ICYN) project to protect, promote, and support good feeding practices for infants and young children, PATH and our partners are working to combat global malnourishment with Ultra Rice® technology—manufactured rice “grains” that contain iron, zinc, folic acid, or other nutrients. The grains are made from rice flour and shaped to resemble the locally milled rice with which they are blended, typically at a ratio of 1:100.

The promise of Ultra Rice

Research proves that Ultra Rice can help reduce morbidities by increasing the micronutrient health of children. The total potential benefit of rice fortified with Ultra Rice technology is therefore enormous—more than half the global population in the developing world depends on rice as a staple food.

The fortification of staple foods is also cost-effective. The Copenhagen Consensus, a group of preeminent economists that evaluate a variety of development proposals, has ranked micronutrient fortification as number three on a list of the top 30 best ways to spend development aid.

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