Underweight and wasting are only the most obvious forms of malnutrition. The hidden hunger of micronutrient deficiencies may affect the majority of the world's people. One out of 3 people in developing countries are affected by vitamin and mineral deficiencies, according to the World Health Organization.
Iron deficiency is one of the most prevalent nutritional deficiencies in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is one of the top ten preventable risks for disease, disability and death in the world today. Iron deficiency impacts maternal and perinatal health, child development, and learning and work capacity. Two billion people—over 30 percent of the world’s population—are anemic, mainly due to iron deficiency, which, in developing countries, is frequently exacerbated by malaria and worm infections. Anemia contributes to 20 percent of all maternal deaths during pregnancy (World Health Organization).
Between 100 and 140 million children are deficient in Vitamin A, which is essential to the function of the immune system. Vitamin A deficiency, if severe, can cause blindness. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 Vitamin A deficient children become blind every year, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight (World Health Organization). Even before blindness occurs, a Vitamin A deficient child faces a 25% risk of dying from ailments such as measles and diarrhea, which together kill over three million children annually. Vitamin A deficiency is also a cause of maternal mortality, especially in impoverished regions.
Iodine must be obtained from the environment, but it has been depleted from the soil and water in many regions of the world. Iodine deficiency disorder affects over 740 million people, 13 percent of the world’s population; 30% of the remainder are at risk. Iodine deficiency disorder may result in goiter, as well as increased rates of stillbirth and abortions and infant deaths. It is also the most prevalent cause of brain damage in the world. Fifty million people have some degree of mental impairment caused by IDD (World Health Organization).
Many of the world's women of reproductive age do not ingest adequate levels of folic acid. Folic acid deficiencies increase the risk of spina bifida and other tragic birth defects related to abnormal development of the brain and spinal cord.
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