Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals needed in small amounts for normal growth and development. Micronutrient deficiencies affect billion people worldwide (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2015), and have been shown to affect people’s physical health (e.g. iron deficiency causes anemia) and cognitive function (e.g. iodine deficiency negatively affects mental development and lowers IQ). Treating micronutrient deficiencies is a very cost-effective intervention: it usually costs only a few cents per person per year to provide particular vitamins or minerals (Giving What We Can 2016).
There are three ways to reduce micronutrient deficiencies: giving people micronutrient supplements directly (supplementation); enriching staple foods such as rice, flour, oil and salt with micronutrients (fortification); and breeding or genetically manipulating plants to increase their micronutrient content (biofortification).
Two of Givewell’s “charities worthy of special recognition”—the Food Fortification Initiative and Project Healthy Children—focus on reducing micronutrient deficiencies (GiveWell 2016a; GiveWell 2016b).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015. Micronutrient facts.
Givewell. 2016a. Food Fortification Initiative.
GiveWell. 2016b. Project Healthy Children (PHC).
Giving What We Can. 2016. Micronutrient fortification.