It looks like a refugee from the airport gift shop.
But for people in Cambodia, the palm-sized iron fish is no curiosity. It’s a lifesaver.
The Lucky Iron Fish is the invention of a Canadian medical student, Christopher Charles. During a trip to Southeast Asia in 2008, he learned that much of Cambodia’s population suffered from iron deficiency, which can lead to anemia.
Anemia is a global concern that can lead to further health problems from miscarriages to general weakness and headaches. The World Heath Organization attributes between 2.4 million and 3.4 million deaths a year to iron deficiency anemia.
Cambodians are particularly susceptible because their diet of mainly rice and fish is naturally low in iron.
Iron supplements are expensive and have unpleasant side effects, and Charles found that getting Cambodians to switch to iron cookware – which would provide enough iron in their diets – was not feasible.