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.
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.
Vitamin A deficiency 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. Vitamin A can be added to cooking oil as well as wheat and maize flour. It is also included in micronutrient powders.
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.