Malnutrition in Latvia
According to the World Bank, in 2018, the poverty rate in Latvia stood at almost 23%. Malnutrition in Latvia is a consequence of high poverty rates and economic instability. Latvia’s government is taking steps to prevent the issue from becoming more severe.

5 Facts About Malnutrition in Latvia

  1. Anemia is prevalent among Latvian women. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “iron deficiency is the most common form of micronutrient malnutrition globally.” This typically leads to anemia, a “condition in which [one] lack[s] enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to [one’s] body tissues,” which can lead to fatigue, heart problems and an increased risk of death. World Bank data from 2019 finds that in Latvia specifically, slightly more than one-fifth of non-pregnant females 15-49 suffered from anemia.
  2. Overweight and obesity impact Latvian people. Overweight and obesity are forms of malnutrition that increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, strokes and many other illnesses. Statistics show that 58% of the total Latvian population was overweight in 2014 and 24% suffered from obesity. The female rate of obesity was higher than men at 25% and 22% respectively. Because “the prevalence of obesity contributes to an increase in health care expenditure,” as with other forms of malnutrition, the economic impact on a nation is clear.
  3. About 5,000 Latvian infants were below the minimum weight standard in 2012. A low-weight infant increases the risk of health issues significantly. Some issues might include trouble breathing, jaundice and infections. When a woman does not gain enough weight during pregnancy or suffers malnutrition, this increases the chance of an underweight newborn baby, endangering the baby’s life. Additionally, underweight babies are at risk of developing other illnesses later in life, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and intellectual or developmental disabilities.
  4. Malnutrition contributes to child mortality. As of 2013, the mortality rate for Latvian children younger than 5 stood at 8.4%. According to WHO, “around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age are linked to undernutrition.” These circumstances are especially prevalent in lower-income countries such as Latvia.
  5. Well-balanced diets are lacking in Latvia. A 2021 press release by the Central Statistics Bureau of Latvia states that less than 40% of the population (15 and older) consume fruit or vegetables “once a day or more often.” This statistic indicates that many Latvians do not consume nutritious, well-balanced diets essential for preventing malnutrition. The survey data by the Central Statistics Bureau of Latvia also finds that poverty plays a role in these patterns. Households with higher levels of income, education and employment consumed more fruits and vegetables daily in comparison to those with lower socioeconomic statuses.

Government Solutions

Because adequate nutrition is essential for a high quality of life, it is key to implement strategies to improve malnutrition in Latvia. To address issues of malnutrition in schools, in 2006, Latvia banned schools from selling unhealthy foods and drinks such as sodas. Latvia has also set guiding nutritional standards for meals provided at education facilities and health care facilities. The nation has also introduced a “tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and a reduced value-added tax rate for fresh vegetables, fruit and berries.”

Unfortunately, socioeconomic status continues to determine the types of foods Latvian households purchase. Because those living in poverty are less likely to purchase fruits and vegetables, they are most likely to suffer from malnutrition. With this in mind, addressing the poverty rate in the nation will likely lead to a reduction in malnutrition in Latvia as healthy foods become more accessible to people of all income levels.

– Kler Teran
Photo: Flickr