THE BLOG

This Is How We Can Help End Hidden Hunger

09/30/2015 12:36 EDT | Updated 09/30/2016 05:12 EDT
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AP10ThingsToSee - Waka, aged 2, a severely malnourished child, sits on the floor at Bangui's pediatric center in Bangui, Central African Republic, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013. According to UNICEF's doctor Celestin Traore, even though malnutrition is high in the country, the problem is worsening due to the conflict. Traore expects to see over 150 malnourished children daily in the coming days as the humanitarian situation worsens. Over 1600 French troops have been deployed to the country in an effort to put an end to sectarian violence. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

The concept of "hidden hunger" isn't new, but it's not something that the average person is aware of. Hidden hunger happens when people don't eat a variety of healthy and nutritious foods. They may be getting enough food to fill their stomachs, but they aren't consuming the right balance of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

This condition can lead to disease and life-threatening illnesses, and about 45 per cent of all childhood deaths in developing countries are attributable to hidden hunger.

Vitamins enable the body to produce enzymes, hormones and other substances essential for proper growth and development. They also play a very important role in many aspects of overall health such as disease prevention and immune system support. While many essential vitamins and minerals can be obtained through a healthy balanced diet, this is unattainable for some people.

Deficiencies in iron, iodine, vitamin A, and zinc are the main causes of hidden hunger in developing countries. In these communities, a high prevalence of poor diet and infectious disease contribute to the issue. Children under five and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are the most vulnerable.

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There are a number of ways to end hidden hunger: eating more nutritious foods, fortifying food staples, and vitamin supplementation for those who need it. When securing nutritious food for people in need becomes a barrier because of costs or other deterrents, which is common in many parts of the world, vitamin supplementation becomes key.

Vitamin A micronutrient supplementation was ranked by a group of world-renowned economists as the top international priority for addressing the world's greatest global development challenges. According to the Cochrane Review, providing children between the ages of six months and 59 months with vitamin A supplements can substantially reduce child morbidity and mortality among the 190 million children at risk of vitamin A deficiency worldwide.

Just as is the case in Canada, people around the world who are in a lower socio-economic bracket tend to have poorer access to healthy, balanced diets, so typically are not consuming the optimal amounts of vitamins and minerals to keep them healthy and help keep illness at bay.

Together we can help communities in need not only survive, but thrive, and we are seeing significant progress due to efforts from the global aid community. Public, private and charitable agencies are working around the world to fill the need. The non-profit organization I founded called Vitamin Angels aims to do just that, and we have just partnered with Jamieson Vitamins in Canada to provide 500,000 children worldwide with lifesaving vitamin A.

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