Micronutrient deficiency in Tanzania

tanzania masavaMalnutrition is a critical development challenge in Tanzania. Rural diets lack the basic micronutrients needed to build strong, healthy immune systems.

The basis for lifelong health begins in childhood – malnutrition does the most damage in the first 1,000 days of life. The ripple effects are significant; malnourished children are less likely to attend school, earn less over their lifetime and die earlier.

Lacking micronutrients, often called “hidden hunger,” is a matter of nutritional deficiency, not only food supply. As food prices rise, families switch from costly, nutrient-rich fruit, vegetables and meat to cheaper, nutrient-poor staples. Having enough to eat doesn’t automatically translate into good health.

Vitamin A is essential for maintaining the mucous membranes that protect the body’s organs, such as the eyes.

Pregnant women and children are among the most vulnerable to Vitamin A deficiency (VAD). It is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children, increasing the risk of disease and death from severe infections.

The 2010 Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey (NBS, 2010), designed to measure levels, patterns, and trends in demographic and health indicators, collected biomarkers to determine the current status of vitamin A, iron, and iodine in children and women. Results from the survey show the following vitamin and mineral deficiencies:

  • 1/3 of children age 6-59 months are Vitamin A deficient.
  • 37% of women age 15-49 are Vitamin A Deficient (VAD).
  • Iron deficiency is prevalent in 35% of all children age 6-59 months and is more common in urban areas (41%) than rural areas (34%).
  • 30% of women are iron deficient; 39% of women aged 15-49 have mild-moderate anaemia, while 1% have severe anaemia. In pregnancy, 53% of women will be anaemic.

By fortifying locally produced oil, Masava addresses critical development issues of nutritional and food security among two of the most vulnerable populations – women and children; using equitable, productive and sustainable nutrient fortification systems that increase food security and enhance nutrition in Tanzania.