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Nutrition in the Eastern Mediterranean Region A display of a variety of vegetables

Malnutrition remains the most serious child health problem and the single biggest contributor to child mortality in the World Health Organization (WHO) Eastern Mediterranean Region. Nearly one-third of children in the Region are either underweight or stunted, and more than 30% of the population suffers from micronutrient deficiencies.

Most rich and middle income countries in the Region are experiencing a double burden of malnutrition that includes both undernutrition and overweight. This is leading to an increasing burden of disease in many countries. This double burden is having a negative impact on health systems.

Overweight and obesity are closely related to food consumption, dietary patterns, nutrition and lifestyles. Changes in food habits are visible in all countries, in which the traditional diet, which has generally consisted of dates, milk, fresh vegetables and fruits, whole wheat bread and fish, has been diversified, with an excess intake of energy-dense foods rich in fat and free sugars and deficient in complex carbohydrates.

The major nutrition problems due to an inadequate dietary intake in the Region are:

  • protein-energy malnutrition
  • high prevalence of low birth weight
  • iodine deficiency disorders
  • vitamin A deficiency
  • iron deficiency anaemia in young children and women of childbearing age
  • calcium deficiency
  • zinc deficiency
  • vitamin D deficiency.


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