Kul C. Gautam, former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, once said “that the ‘hidden hunger’ due to micronutrient deficiency does not produce hunger as we know it. You might not feel it in the belly, but it strikes at the core of your health and vitality”

According to the FAO, hidden hunger, or micronutrient deficiencies, occurs when the quality of food that people eat does not meet their nutrient requirements. In other words, people do not get the necessary vitamins and minerals, such as zinc, iodine, and iron, needed for their growth and development from food consumed. The stomach is full of food but the body does not gain much from it.

Sadly, more than 2 billion people worldwide suffer from hidden hunger (or one in three people), more than double the 805 million people who do not have enough calories to eat (FAO, IFAD, and WFP 2014). This is very prevalent in many developing countries and needs to be addressed urgently because of its devastating effects such as mental impairment, poor health, low productivity, and even death. Its adverse effects on child health and survival are particularly acute, especially within the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, from conception to the age of two, resulting in serious physical and cognitive consequences.

In addition to affecting human health, hidden hunger can restrict socio-economic growth and development. Some of the factors that contribute to hidden hunger are poor production practices (making some nutrients unavailable), poor diet, increased micronutrient needs during certain life stages (such as pregnancy and lactation), and health problems such as diseases, infections, or parasites. This is a public concern and should be given attention to.

It is important we ensure that when food is produced, the appropriate methods should be deployed (especially appropriate nutrients), consumers need to be sensitized on appropriate methods of food preparation and diversified diets using local or indigenous foods. Also, we need to improve access to primary health care especially in hard-to-reach areas. We need to be proactive in ensuring that hidden hunger no longer has a place in our society.