By: Malarie Warren
Child malnutrition is a global issue that doesn’t receive nearly as much media attention as other epidemics like Ebola and Zika. Something unique about this dilemma is that the western world has an abundance of resources that could contribute to the abolishment of said issue. According to the World Food Project, “Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of hunger. One person in four there in undernourished… Poor nutrition causes 45% of deaths in children under five”1. Researchers in Uganda have been researching traditional methods
of biofortification to increase levels of vitamin A in sweet potatoes, a staple in many Ugandan households. Children who suffer from Vitamin A deficiency may suffer from blindness, stunted growth, a host of diseases and mortality2. This problem has been addressed before but implementation of efforts to dissolve the problem has been either unsustainable or controversial. Although the sweet potato is commonly eaten among Ugandans, it is often the white potato variety that is more firm, more starchy, and contains less Vitamin A. Dr. Robert Mwanga is a Ugandan researcher that developed the new fortified sweet potato variety and he stresses the importance of marketing the health and agricultural benefits of the new variety if vital to its success because this sweet potato is not native to Africa. Because it decreases the occurrence of vitamin A deficiency in the community, mortality decreases while overall health has been shown to increase. Dr. Mwanga recently received his quarter of a $250,000 World Food Prize for his work because this product is sustainable, often yields more than the region’s traditional sweet potato, and is highly effective in providing sufficient Vitamin A2. Farmers are able to feed their family and sell the remaining yield to the community, increasing their communities’ economic success. Dr. Mwanga has seen this orange-fleshed sweet potato thrive with farmers in Uganda and hope that it will continue to spread in popularity among the farmers and their communities and eventually spread to the rest of the continent.
- Programme WF. Hunger statistics. https://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats. Accessed December 19, 2016.
- Kacungira N. Can a new sweet potato help tackle child malnutrition? BBC Africa. October 18, 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-37684428. Accessed December 19, 2016.