"Rising Food Prices and Nutrition"
The following letter to the editor written by HKI's Vice President and Regional Director for Africa, Shawn Baker, appeared in the January 20th issue of The Economist:
"SIR – Four items in your January 8th issue discussed the surge in food prices (The world this week, "Centéotl’s pricier feast", "Inflated fears", "Enough to make your eyes water"). But there is another aspect to the impact of increases in staple food prices on the poor: a sharp rise in "hidden hunger", or deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals. Poor households that have to spend an inordinate portion of their income on food respond to increased prices by first maintaining staples at the expense of more costly fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish, which are all rich in life-saving vitamins and minerals.
Deficiencies in vitamin A, iron, zinc, and folic acid cause increased sickness and death and undermine human development and productivity. More than two billion people suffer from these conditions, which are exacerbated by increases in the price of staple foods.
We must ensure that vitamin and mineral supplementation programmes are reaching the very poorest, who are often left out of public-health programmes. We should also make it mandatory to fortify vitamins and minerals in food stuffs. Finally, we should encourage agricultural policies that promote food varieties selected for enhanced nutritional qualities, to produce a diverse variety of fruits, vegetables and small livestock."