The first 1,000 days of a life are critical. Without adequate nutrition, newborns exhibit low birth weight and increased risk of disease. Years later, undernourished children experience stunting and reduced mental capacity. Malnourished adolescents are prone to frequent infections and fatigue. Adults struggle to move beyond poor socioeconomic status with reduced productivity. The elderly suffer increased morbidity, like osteoporosis.
According to the Micronutrient Initiative, iron deficiency anemia affects 40% of women in the developing world and severe anemia kills 50,000 women each year during childbirth. 2 million children die unnecessarily due to the lack of Vitamin A, zinc and other micronutrients. For those that survive, the damage to their brains is irreversible. The economic costs are also staggering. Globally, Iron deficiency anemia, zinc and vitamin A deficiencies rank among the 15 leading causes of disease burden, costing $180 billion annually.
In Mali, the World Bank estimates economic losses due to the detrimental effects of iron deficiency anemia on cognitive function and productivity alone at $400 million per year. 83% of Malian children under 5 and 61% of non-pregnant women are anemic. Amongst pregnant women, the figure is 73%.
Countries where white rice is the main staple food face particular challenges due to the fact that most of the nutrients contained in the crop are removed during processing. Households who cannot afford to pair rice with vegetables, fish, or protein are especially at risk.