Asia's low-income regions, 2.8 million children die from malnutrition
each year, accounting for 51% of childhood deaths worldwide. This
startling statistic has prompted the Asian Development Bank to find
effective ways of overcoming the growing problem. Susan Horton,
professor of economics and supervisor of studies in the International
Development Studies program at U of T at Scarborough, is one of
several researchers from around the world working on this project.
Horton's role is
to estimate the economic impact of malnourishment in children and pregnant
women, and to make recommendations on cost-effective methods of providing
the essential vitamins and minerals.
The project adopts
a systematic approach by focusing on specific regions and aiming to generate
useful public policy in the affected countries. The work has taken Horton
across the globe to investigate conditions in nine countries including
India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, China, Laos, Cambodia and
the past three years, Horton has investigated the social and economic
costs of malnutrition in women and children in these countries and
the resulting deaths and losses in productivity, and then analyzed
the relatively low costs of nutritional intervention needed to reduce
the deficiencies. Her resulting recommendations include ãmicronutrient
fortificationä as one of the most cost-effective and efficient methods
of improving nutritional health in these countries. This process
involves fortifying staples such as wheat, salt, vegetable oil and
soy sauce with crucial vitamins and minerals ÷ vitamin A, iodine
and iron in particular ÷ that are scarce in the diet of people in
several low-income regions in Asia.
Some of the research
team's recommendations are already having an impact. Vietnam, for example,
has accepted micronutrient fortification as part of its national nutrition
planning and is seeking funding to carry out the program.
The Asian Development
Bank is coordinating an international donor effort to generate funding
for these initiatives, and will devote the next issue of its journal,
Asian Development Review, to the papers developed from this ongoing study.
Canada is at the forefront of micronutrient work worldwide, which has
only received attention from international agencies in the last five years.
Studies is one of five co-op programs at U of T at Scarborough and the
only such Canadian program that provides a fully-funded placement of students
in a developing country. The program spans a broad range of disciplines,
including environmental sciences, geography, anthropology, and political
science. Faculty working in the program research a variety of topics,
such as the politics of religion in the Middle East, management of non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) in Latin America, soil erosion in Kenya and Mexico,
women's labour in China, and economic reform in Cuba.
- Althea Blackburn