Malnutrition in Paraguay

Paraguay is one of the most malnourished countries in Latin America and the developing world. Although the region as a whole has made progress in reducing malnutrition, Paraguay is among the Latin American countries that have made little to no progress, especially with regard to chronic malnutrition.

According to the World Health Organization, 1.55 percent of deaths that occur in Paraguay are a result of malnutrition. Additionally, 32 percent of the population in Paraguay lives under the poverty lines, while 17 percent of the population is considered to be in extreme poverty. Among those populations, food insecurity is more prominent and varies from household to household.

Of those living in poverty, 25.5 percent are undernourished. Additionally, statistics reveal that 60,000 of the 150,000 children born in Paraguay will be born in impoverished households. A 2013 U.N. report states that Paraguay is one of the countries with the highest percentage of malnourished and food deprived people in Latin America.

There are several factors contributing to malnutrition in regions across Latin America, more specifically Paraguay. Environmental, social, cultural and economic factors as well as biological factors affect malnutrition in the region.

The most vulnerable to food insecurity are those who do not have the means to access a consistent food source.

The environmental impact on food security is most severe in rural areas. According to a UNICEF report, an estimated 50 percent of nutritional problems occur in homes found in rural parts of the country. Additionally, malnutrition is highest in parts of the world where agriculture can be easily affected by the environment. Natural disasters impact agriculture sources essential for survival.

Undernourished people are often found in homes without clean water or basic sanitation. In addition, disease is a significant contributing factor to malnutrition in Latin American countries such as Paraguay. Contracting infectious diseases can cause diarrhea, dehydration and other health problems that affect a person’s well-being and can lead to severe undernourishment.

Aside from environmental factors, social, cultural and economic factors also influence malnutrition in Paraguay.

It is known that malnutrition is closely connected to poverty; therefore, economic factors that affect malnutrition stem from low income households and limited access to a sustainable food source.

Additionally, lack of education also contributes to malnutrition. The less educated people are, especially mothers, the more vulnerable they become to their economic situation. Education is an investment that will increase income in the long run; however, without the necessary resources and income for an education, the population cannot have access.

Biological factors also seem to play a role in malnutrition in Paraguay. Poor maternal nutrition is a significant issue that leads to malnutrition in children. Low birth weights and undernourished children are a result of deficiencies experienced during gestation. With continued food insecurity and prior biological factors, children often times experience stunted growth and other health problems.

Eradicating malnutrition may be a slow process, but with continued efforts that focus on rural development as well as sanitation, water and health improvements, Paraguay will begin to see progress in reducing malnutrition.

– Nada Sewidan

Sources: World Health Rankings, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, The Argentina Independent, World health Organization, UNICEF
Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farran