When Christopher Charles visited Cambodia six years ago, he came into direct contact with a population fraught with iron deficiency: women suffered from tiredness and headaches, and pregnant women faced multiple consequences such as haemorrhaging. The children he met were a far call from the bright and frolicking kids he had expected to meet. Instead, most of them saw were small and weak, with slow mental development. For Charles, a science graduate, this was a problem that needed rectification, and soon. His solution came in the form of an “iron fish”.
Anaemia is common across the world and mainly affects women of child-bearing age, teenagers and children. In developing countries like Cambodia, the anaemic population is much higher, with over 50% of the women and children affected.
The only solution to anaemia lies in providing the body with the standard amount of iron it needs, something that is often achieved by means of iron supplements and tablets. However, they are neither affordable nor easily available, and even if they were, the side effects often discourage people from taking them.
With the situation only worsening in countries like Cambodia, Charles came up with the novel idea of the “iron fish”. Inspired by the fact that cooking in cast iron vessels increased the iron content in food, Charles fashioned a fish out melted-down metal, which could be added into the pot while cooking.
The fish, considered lucky in Cambodian culture, has indeed proven its worth, for, after a year, all those who used the iron fishes in cooking were no longer anaemic.
The iron fishes, if used correctly, have the potential to provide 75% of an adult’s recommended daily intake of iron.
The procedure, says Charles, is simple –
- Boil up water or soup with the iron fish for at least 10 minutes.
- That enhances the iron which leaches from it.
- You can then take it out. Now add a little lemon juice which is important for the absorption of the iron.
That is how easy it is to save lives.