I bet most people in the U.S. wish they ate better. More fruits and vegetables. Fewer donuts, chocolates, and—my favorite—hamburgers. The problem isn’t that we’re not getting enough to eat or all the essential vitamins and minerals. It’s that we’re getting too much of the things we don’t really need.
If you’re poor in Africa, you have the opposite problem. Your diet choices are often so limited—both in quantity and diversity—that you can end up shortchanged not just on calories but also essential nutrients, putting you at risk for severe infections, chronic medical conditions, and developmental problems.
In Tanzania, where I just visited as part of my trip to Africa, a typical meal for a poor family is a bowl of cornmeal with boiled vegetables. Meat is a luxury for most families, too expensive to buy except for special occasions. While these poor families don’t starve, they’re not getting enough to eat or enough of the vitamins and minerals we take for granted in rich countries. That’s why 42 percent of the children under 5 in Tanzania are stunted and many children suffer from deficiencies of vitamin A, iodine, and other key nutrients.
The lack of Vitamin A, for example, is the leading cause of childhood blindness in developing countries like Tanzania. It also compromises a child’s immunity, leaving them unable to fight common childhood infections such as measles or diarrhea, rest of story
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