Thirdeyemom

The impact of the good old Sweet Potato on Global Health

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Today I am honored to be collaborating with a group of women bloggers on behalf of ONE, a non-partisan, grassroots advocacy organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable diseases, to increase awareness about world hunger.

ONE asks:

“How can it be that 40% of Africa’s children are so chronically malnourished by the age of five that they will never fully thrive, physically recover or mentally develop – and this has not improved in two decades, despite so much other development progress?

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MALNUTRITION: FAST FACTS

  • In 2010, 171 million children under the age of five had stunted growth (chronically malnourished)[1]
  • Every year, malnutrition causes 3.5 million child deaths – or more than one third of all deaths of children under the age of five[2]
  • More than 600,000 children die each year from vitamin A deficiency[3]
  • 2 billion people are anemic, including every second pregnant woman and an estimated 40% of school-aged children — contributing to 20% of all maternal deaths[4]
  • The economic toll of malnutrition causes the loss of 2-3% of GDP in affected countries and more than 10% of productivity over a person’s lifetime[5]

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It is no surprise that ONE has launched ONE’s Thrive campaign to combat malnutrition and global hunger. Thrive is drawing specific attention to hunger and the mascot for the campaign is the good old sweet potato which is being considered a miracle vegetable in combatting devastating malnutrition and needless deaths across the developing world and in particular in sub-Saharan Africa. 

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Different varieties of sweet potatoes for sale in Indonesia. Only the red or orange colored ones provide the necessary, life-saving Vitamin A. Photo source: WIkipedia Commons.

The orange sweet potato has been discovered to be like giving people a living vitamin. NPR’s story “Saving Lives In Africa With The Humble Sweet Potato”, is a brilliant testimonial how the good old sweet potato can be used to save lives. Please click here to listen or read the full story which I found fascinating. Following are some highlights:

  • “In some cases, they found that just giving malnourished children a vitamin A capsule every six months cut the death rate among those children by about 25 percent.”
  • Poor people often don’t get enough micronutrients because they spend their scarce money on cheap and basic foods like rice or corn. Those crops deliver calories, but not all the vitamins and minerals you need.
  • In several African countries, substance farmers already grew sweet potatoes but generally yellow or white ones that aren’t high in vitamin A.  However, the US orange sweet potato is. All they needed to do was to introduce this variety into the marketplace.
  • Now About a third of all the sweet potatoes in Mozambique, Andrade says, now are orange.  Check out this infographic that explains the impact of the sweet potato in Mozambique and Uganda.
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Orange colored sweet potatoes are the new lifeblood of Africa providing much needed micronutrients such as Vitamin A.

Per ONE:

A billion people suffer from chronic malnutrition and more than 2.4 million children will die this year as a result.   Despite major progress in other areas, nutrition is an issue widely overlooked on the development agenda.  Stunting rates have stagnated in Africa over the past two decades at an unacceptably high level of 40%.

The results are devastating – malnutrition leads to irreversibly stunted development and shorter, less productive lives.  Less productive lives mean no escape from poverty.

ONE is calling on world leaders to make measurable commitments to reduce chronic malnutrition by 2016 and help 25 million children reach their full potential.

Call to action: What you can do to help in less than 5 minutes

I am asking all readers to take action against world hunger now. It is quick, easy, simple and free.  All you need to do is fill out a quick form below voicing your concern about world hunger and what our governments can do. Here are two quick and easy options to help:

  • For American citizens: Send a letter to Congress: Click here and you will be directed to ONE’s page which will automatically pull up your member of Congress and give you a pre-written letter addressing the need to protect US Foreign Aid spending. Currently less than one percent of the US budget is spend on all foreign aid. These funds are at risk and if these smart programs are cut, millions could lose access to food, medication, vaccines and AIDs treatment. 
  • For American and International Citizens: Sign a petition to help end chronic malnutrition for 25 million kids by clicking here. Nutrition is the hidden killer of nearly 2 million children around the world. The sweet potato is serving as the mascot for ONE’s cause as it is loaded with nutrition and blessed with the ability to grow in many places, the sweet potato is literally saving lives.

Thank you so much for helping kids around the world!

Since this is a team effort of bloggers, here are links to more ONE Moms blog posts on the impact of the sweet potato and global health. Be sure to check them out, share them, like them and help us promote the sweet potato and saving lives!

Now time for a little fun! Here is a delightfully sweet “Sweet Potato” recipe that is a family favorite for you to enjoy! 

Sweet Potato sweet

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Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes $
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar $
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened $
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Place the sweet potatoes in a Dutch oven, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until very tender. Drain; cool slightly.
  3. Place potatoes in a large bowl. Add sugar and next 3 ingredients (through vanilla). Mash sweet potato mixture with a potato masher. Fold in 1/4 cup pecans. Scrape potato mixture into an even layer in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup pecans; top with marshmallows. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until golden.

Source:  Cooking Light (November 2007)

For a wonderful photo collection on traditional sweet potato farming in Africa, visit the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation page titled: “Sweet Potatoes in Africa“.

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Screen Shot of Bill& Melinda Gates Foundation page on Sweet Potatoes

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References:

[1] World Health Organization, “Prevalence and trends of stunting among pre-school children, 1990-2020,” Public Health Nutrition 2012. http://www.who.int/nutgrowthdb/publications/stunting1990_2020/en/

[2] The Lancet, “Maternal and Child Undernutrition,” Special Series, January, 2008. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(07)61693-6/fulltext

[3] The Lancet 2008 http://www.thelancet.com/series/maternal-and-child-undernutrition

[4] World Health Organization http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/ida/en/index.html

[5] The World Bank, “Scaling up Nutrition: What Will it Cost?” 2010 http://siteresources.worldbank.org/HEALTHNUTRITIONANDPOPULATION/Resources/Peer-Reviewed-Publications/ScalingUpNutrition.pdf

42 comments

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  3. This is an awesome article and I would like to reblog it on my blog with your permission. Two years ago, my friend smuggled a sweet potato in her luggage when she came to visit us. We cut the one sweet potato and grew slips. Now, we have a thriving sweet potato garden at our house. The sweet potatoes grow exceptionally well on Ometepe Island. They are resistant to bugs and need very little water in the dry season. No one had ever seen sweet potatoes here. We give sacks of sweet potatoes to our community to be used in soups. We make sweet potato pie, chips, casseroles, and cookies with ours. Also, the horses love them. We have many horses that wander around the island searching for food in the dry season. They are really pitiful..all bones. I searched the internet first, to make sure that sweet potatoes were good for horses. :-)

    • k smirk at your confession, as i often considered asking someone to do the same. i remain baffled why the beta carotene-rich orange sweet potatoes are absent from most latin american countries. hte pale ‘comotes’ are sorely lacking. how i miss and crave those ‘puerto rico reds’ that i grew in mississippi!. maybe an organization will step forward (jhmmmm) and see that all of the latin-american countries start growing them as well!

      • Yes that would be great if they did. I am surprised they don’t exist in Equator though. Hopefully they will make it over that way. I love sweet potatoes myself and tonight had some nice baked sw potato fries with dinner! :)

      • Yes! We grill out almost every single night in the summer and wow are they delicious! You don’t even need any seasoning at all. No butter, just straight! Mmmmm. Are you coming back soon?

      • ja! i am in a holding pattern concerning a visa, though this past week i cleared another hurdle and hope to cross that finish line soon. there’s no problem leaving, but without a more perm/ visa i could not return for another 9 months to a year on a tourist visa.. long story, but mine is the ‘first’ artist-type visa they’ve ever handled, so they are moving at a snail’s pace!

        i’m hopeful in another month to have my visa to come and go as i pleae!

      • Yes it sounds like you have a WONDERFUL life in Ecuador. Many times I wish we could just pick up and move to another place. I’m happy here but sometimes I miss the excitement and tranquility of being out of your element. :)

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  15. If you’re happy, I’d love to re-blog this – another one to add to our Farming A,B,C’s for the centre in Ivory Coast. Never even thought of them, but I’ve seen them at markets there! Personally adore them & with the vitamin content, they’ll be ideal as another part of C.R.E.E.R’s diet!

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