TORONTO – Millions of children are born into poverty and before they can even learn to crawl they have to fight for their lives against malnutrition and disease.
One of the biggest problems they face is anemia.
Approximately 500 million children have the iron deficiency, which affects their intellectual and physical development.
“The number of children around the world is actually absolutely huge,” said Stanley Zlotkin, Global Child Health Chief at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
Zlotkin said between 50 and 80 per cent of children in some countries have iron deficiencies.
“The reason for that is the best sources of iron are meat, fish and poultry, and in most developing countries the most expensive foods are meat, fish and poultry,” he said.
Zlotkin posed the problem to UNICEF and they tasked him to find a solution.
He quickly hone in on supplements. But, iron in liquid or pill forms are expensive and they tasted terrible.
That’s when he came up with the idea to use iron powder.
“I went back to UNICEF and I said I have a great idea,” Zlotkin told Global News. “We could package the powdered minerals and vitamins in a small package, a sachet, and the parents would simply open the package and sprinkle it onto whatever foods they were using.”
He had four problems he had to solve before he could get the sachets from the factory to the homes of those in need: Show it worked, show the parents who would us it, have someone make it and come up with models of distribution.
Eight years later his iron sprinkles are manufactured in six facilities worldwide and benefit more than 20 million children.
The lifetime cost per child is just two dollars.
“He championed an idea in the lab, and once he discovered that he had a great idea he thought about ‘How do I get it to people,’” said Joseph Wong of the Munk School of Global Affairs. “Most inventors don’t think about that.”
He received the Order of Canada for his accomplishment in 2007.
That’s a small honour compared to the gratification he gets from the families, among the millions benefiting from his work.