Danielle Petrie-Deely is on her second assignment with World Vision Timor-Leste, working as a Design, Monitoring & Evaluation Assistant. She writes about a new nutrition programme.
Anaemia is severe here, and has far-ranging consequences. It causes mental and physical stunting, (Timor has the third highest rates of these, globally), as well as increasing the risk of maternal and child mortality, haemorrhaging during childbirth, low birth weight and premature babies. It decreases IQ by a whole standard deviation, and reduces productivity and ability to concentrate, which leads to a drop in adulthood wages and decreases national GDP. It disproportionately affects women and children.
It's a devastating issue that the World Health Organisation has said is one of the biggest issues facing global health. I had done a University assignment on the “Lucky Iron Fish intervention” - a cost-effective, safe and sustainable method to decrease iron deficiency anaemia.
I bought these Iron Fish with me in January (the first ever in Timor) (I managed to find funding for most of them, and have since been distributed to 30 project staff and other World Vision staff to use in their homes. Cooking with one for just 10 minutes at least three times a week for six months has been proven to significantly increase haemoglobin and serum ferritin, as well as other iron measures. I have been working with my team here, especially the maternal and child health and nutrition specialist to design a pilot to test if these Iron Fish will be effective and culturally acceptable in this context.
We have done cooking demos and created a short basic video about how to use them. We have submitted a grant proposal to the NZ embassy, met with the MoH at national and municipal levels, and plan to start our 12-month pilot in July.