A packet of salt changed the life of R. Kala, a fisherwoman, from a village in Chidambaram Taluk.
For years, Kala said, the people in her village would come back after 12 hours of labour, exhausted and feeling ill. “My daughter for instance, couldn’t walk very well. She said her legs just wouldn’t move,” Kala said. But an initiative by the Sundar Serendipity Foundation changed it all.
The foundation provided the village with multiple micronutrient-fortified salt, and within some months, villagers began to feel less tired and less ill and found themselves more productive, Kala said.
This salt is the vehicle which the foundation intends to use to combat ‘hidden hunger,’ a movement for which was launched on Wednesday at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), here.
“Hidden hunger refers to the deficiency of micronutrients, which are vitamins and minerals,”said Malavika Vinod Kumar, managing trustee of the foundation.“At home, people can begin using this salt. Corporates can introduce it in their canteens, and adopt villages to distribute this salt. NGOs and self-help groups can spread the message,” she said.
For instance, Dr. Malavika said, deficiency of iron led to anaemia, which led to low birth weight of babies, and even, contributed to maternal deaths. Zinc deficiency caused stunting, and iodine deficiency could cause goitre, and in endemic iodine-deficient areas, had even led to a lowering of IQ in children. Folic acid and vitamin B12 deficiency during early pregnancy could cause neural tube defects, paralysis in the child or cleft palates.
The salt is fortified with all of these micronutrients and more, Dr. Malavika said.
Agricultural scientist and founder, MSSRF, M.S. Swaminathan said that the world’s focus was shifting from food security to nutrient security, which addressed not just adequate food, but the right kind of nutrition as well as availability of water and sanitation.
V. Muralidharan, managing trustee of NGO Sevalaya, Punardan Datta of Bantra St. Thomas Home Welfare Society in Kolkata as well as others participated.