Feeling Lucky? How Dr. Gavin Armstrong tackles malnutrition in Cambodia

Feeling Lucky? How Dr. Gavin Armstrong tackles malnutrition in Cambodia

Dr Gavin Armstrong, 29
Initiative: Lucky Iron Fish
Country of impact: Cambodia

Lucky Iron Fish is a social enterprise using a buy-one, give-one model to distribute an iron ingot cast in the shape of a fish in Cambodia. When used in cooking, the Lucky Iron Fish has been shown to substantially reduce instances of iron deficiency.

That's big. Iron deficiency affects 3.5 billion people globally; it results in anaemia, impaired cognition and increased risk of illness. The World Bank estimates that US$70 billion in GDP is lost every year due to iron deficiency. Current programmes aimed at reducing iron deficiency are expensive and ineffective. In the last 15 years, despite spending 20% more on iron supplement programmes, iron deficiency has increased by 10%.

Tackling iron deficiency

Lucky Iron Fish, founded by Gavin Armstrong, 29, in 2012, is a social enterprise that aims to wipe out iron deficiency in both emerging and established markets. In the developed world, the Lucky Iron Fish sells for $25. And for every fish sold, another is donated to a Cambodian family, a country where 50% of the population suffers from iron deficiency. Clinically proven, safe and affordable, when used daily during food preparation, the Lucky Iron Fish has been shown to halve the prevalence of anaemia among women and increase iron levels for the entire family by up to 90%.

Addressing poverty’s root causes

Working in refugee camps with the World Food Programme, Gavin became dissatisfied with philanthropy. He believed that simply giving people food and shelter did not address root causes—there had to be a better way, Gavin thought. Convinced that business, civil society and government could achieve greater results through collaboration, he began to actively look for a health innovation with scientific proof of concept to commercialise. When he saw an advert for a student to commercialise what was then called "Happy Fish", he jumped at the chance.

Since then, 70,000 fish have been sold and another 70,000 have been donated to families in the developing world, benefiting 250,000 people. In the next five years, Lucky Iron Fish aims to sell 1 million fish and give a further 1 million away.