From: Hazem Badr, SciDevNet, More from this Affiliate
Published November 23, 2010 03:45 PM

'Wonder food' spreads to Middle East

A nutritious blue-green algae, known as spirulina, has been added to school meals in Jordan to combat chronic malnutrition and anaemia among children.

Almost one in ten Jordanian children suffer from chronic malnutrition, or long-term protein or energy deficiency, while a third are anaemic, according to a survey by the Jordanian Department of Statistics (DOS) made public in March.

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The Intergovernmental Institution for the use of Micro-algae Spirulina against Malnutrition (IIMSAM), which has observer status with the UN Economic and Social Council, says spirulina is rich in protein and vitamin B, and contains beta-carotene that can overcome eye problems caused by Vitamin A deficiency. A tablespoon a day can eliminate iron anaemia, the most common mineral deficiency.

According to IIMSAM, a pilot feeding programme in two Kenyan schools from April 2009 to April 2010 helped cure 1,350 pupils suffering from malnutrition. The World Food Programme estimates that 22 per cent of children under the age of five in Kenya are malnourished, significantly higher than the 15 per cent level which the World Health Organization uses as a threshold to describe an emergency situation.

Naseer S. Homoud, director of IIMSAM's Middle East Office, said spirulina has a role in fighting malnourishment, especially in children, and referred to "its low cost of farming as it can be grown even on infertile land and without a large water supply."

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