Poor nutrition contributes to more than half of the nearly 11 million deaths that occur each year in children younger than five years old. An estimated 50 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa suffers from iron deficiency and a third from zinc deficiency. Ninety percent of children in the region receive inadequate amounts of vitamin A.
Inadequate intake of these and other essential micronutrients can cause:
- Impaired immune systems
- Low birth weight
- Impaired neuropsychological development
Arid climates with poor soil cannot support the fruits, vegetables, and grains needed to naturally supply essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. As a result, billions of people rely primarily on foods like rice, which grows easily in a variety of climates but is one of the poorest sources of essential nutrients.
A promising long-term solution to this problem is to genetically modify crops that grow well in harsh climates so that they obtain high levels of essential nutrients.