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KOLKATA – On the eastern edge of Kolkata, Dulu Bibi, a 25-year-old mother of four, worries about the cost of treating her two sick boys. Her husband earns 80-90 rupees ($1.90 or €1.40) a day. The family’s basic diet is low in the essential micronutrients that children need to thrive. Dulu’s two sons, aged three and one, are weak and feverish, lack appetite, and cry a lot. “If I have to spend 150-200 rupees on medicine,” she asks, “what will I eat and feed my children with?”
Dulu’s story is heartbreaking – and heartbreakingly common – in the developing world: three billion people survive on diets that lack micronutrients like vitamin A and Zinc, and are at increased risk of illness from common infections like diarrheal disease, which kills nearly two million children annually.
Micronutrient deficiency is known as “hidden hunger.” This is a fitting description, because it is one of the global challenges that we hear relatively little about in the developed world. It draws scant media attention or celebrity firepower, which are often crucial to attracting charitable donations to a cause.