Global Impact of Micronutrient Deficiencies
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It is estimated half of anaemia cases are due to iron deficiency. Almost half of children in low- and middle-income countries – 47% of under-fives – are affected by anaemia, impairing cognitive and physical development. Iron is a key component of micronutrient blends which are used in large-scale and targeted fortification programs.
Vitamin A deficiency is a huge problem in more than half the world which causes early childhood blindness and increases the severity of infections and anaemia. It affects an estimated 190 million pre-school aged children, and 19 million pregnant and breastfeeding women globally. While it is not prominent in most first-world countries, nearly all other countries have at least some percentage of their population suffering from it. In African and European countries, along with Mexico,more than 20% of the children are afflicted with Vitamin A deficiency.
Iodine deficiency is the greatest single cause of mental retardation and brain damage. It can easily be prevented by adding iodine to salt. Between 1990 and 2009, the number of households consuming iodized salt rose from 20% to 70%. Coincidently, the number of countries in which iodine-deficiency disorders were considered a public health concern reduced by 43% between 1993 and 2007.
However, iodine deficiency is still a large problem, especially in Europe and Russia, where iodized salt is not commonly consumed or used. In fact, more than 50% of Europe's children are estimated to be iodine-deficient. In addition, at least 1 billion people in developing countries might be at risk for iodine deficiency, as noted by University of Maryland Medical Center. This means that it is a problem in both undeveloped and developed countries.
Zinc deficiency affects children’s health and physical growth; it is also essential for mothers during pregnancy. It is estimated to cause 4% of deaths in pre-school aged children in lower-income countries. Zinc supplementation improves growth in stunted children and can be included in wheat flour, maize flour or rice.
The most important thing is that the impairments caused by these deficiencies can have a negative impact upon not only individuals, but upon the economy. The people who suffer from these conditions are unable to work efficiently, meaning that they cannot support themselves or their families, and the overall economy suffers from this.
In addition, these easily preventable deficiencies are a strain on health-care providers. Especially when the patient is younger, treatment can be expensive and a burden to both parties. Though prevention is easy, treatment is much more difficult and time-consuming.