The unified global efforts to mitigate the high burden of vitamin and mineral deficiency, known as hidden hunger, in populations around the world are crucial to the achievement of most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We developed indices and maps of global hidden hunger to help prioritize program assistance, and to serve as an evidence-based global advocacy tool. Two types of hidden hunger indices and maps were created based on i) national prevalence data on stunting, anemia due to iron deficiency, and low serum retinol levels among preschool-aged children in 149 countries; and ii) estimates of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) attributed to micronutrient deficiencies in 136 countries. A number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as India and Afghanistan, had an alarmingly high level of hidden hunger, with stunting, iron deficiency anemia, and vitamin A deficiency all being highly prevalent. The total DALY rates per 100,000 population, attributed to micronutrient deficiencies, were generally the highest in sub-Saharan African countries. In 36 countries, home to 90% of the world's stunted children, deficiencies of micronutrients were responsible for 1.5-12% of the total DALYs. The pattern and magnitude of iodine deficiency did not conform to that of other micronutrients. The greatest proportions of children with iodine deficiency were in the Eastern Mediterranean (46.6%), European (44.2%), and African (40.4%) regions. The current indices and maps provide crucial data to optimize the prioritization of program assistance addressing global multiple micronutrient deficiencies. Moreover, the indices and maps serve as a useful advocacy tool in the call for increased commitments to scale up effective nutrition interventions.
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