This Iron Fish Is Saving Lives In Poverty-Stricken Cambodia

When Dr. Charles visited Cambodia 6 years ago, nearly 50% of the population was Iron deficient. He decided then to help develop a solution... and you'll love what it is!

In affluent countries like America, 9.6% of the population is iron-deficient, or anemic. But in developing?countries like Cambodia, that statistic is near 50%, with mainly women and children suffering most from this condition.

This travesty was witnessed by Canadian science graduate Christopher Charles when he visited Cambodia six years ago. He was shocked when he?many who were small, weak, and experiencing slow mental development.

As was shared with BBC, ?Women were suffering from tiredness and headaches, and were unable to work. Pregnant women faced serious health complications before and after childbirth, such as haemorrhaging.?

And from that point on, the doctor became focused on the nutrient Iron and how others might easily get enough.



Anemia isn?t just prevalent in low-income countries – it is, in fact, the most common nutritional problem in the world. It usually affects most women of child-bearing age, teenagers, and young children.

In poverty-stricken locations, however, residents do not have the access nor the money to purchase iron supplements or tables to increase their iron intake. Plus, the side-effects cause most people to reduce their dosage or stop taking them altogether.

So to remedy this issue, Dr. Charles came up with a brilliant idea: The Lucky Fish.

Charles came across previous research revealing that cooking in cast-iron pots increases the iron content of food, therefore he decided to put a lump of iron into a cooking pot which he made from melted-down metal. He shaped the lump of metal into a fish (which is a symbol of luck in Cambodia), and designed it to release the right concentration to provide the nutritions many women and children in the country are lacking.

According to him, the recipe to put it to use is simple:

1) Boil water or soup with the iron fish for at least 10 minutes. That enhances the iron which leaches from it.
2) Then, take it out. Add a little lemon juice which is important for the absorption of the iron.
3) Voila!

According to the doctor, if used every day and correctly, the iron fish should provide 75% of an adult’s daily recommended intake of iron – and even more of a child?s.

Said Professor Imelda Bates of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine:

?If it’s something that is culturally acceptable and not too costly, it would be of great benefit.?

And it has shown to be extremely beneficial. After trials were conducted on several hundred villagers in one province in Cambodia, nearly half of those who took part were no longer anemic after 12 months.

BBC also notes that in a previous trial, participants started using water from wells after a few months due to drought. Unfortunately the arsenic contaminating their water supply blocks the uptake of iron, so the fish apparently stopped working.

At present, around 2,500 families in Cambodia are using the iron fish and the Lucky Iron Fish company, set up by Gavin Armstrong. This company has distributed nearly 9,000 fish to hospitals and non-governmental organizations in the country.

You can imagine Dr. Charles is pleased about the solution and the fact that the villagers appear to have accepted the smiling iron fish, which is 3 inches (7.6 cm) long and weights about 200 grams (7.1 oz).

One woman and her daughter, who are part of a current trial in Preah Vihear Province, told the BBC they would use it during cooking.

“I’m happy, the blood test results show that I have the iron deficiency problem, so I hope will be cured and will be healthy soon.

“I think all the people in Sekeroung village will like the fish, because fish is our everyday food.”

Find out more at The Lucky Fish.

What are your thoughts on this ingenious remedy for Iron-deficiency? Share in the comments section below.

This article (This Iron Fish Is Saving Lives In Poverty-Stricken Cambodia) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a?Creative Commons?license with attribution to the author and?

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