The Kingdom of Bahrain is an island country in the Persian Gulf. Though there are large wealth disparities between Shia and Sunni populations, data suggests that there are no Bahraini citizens living in extreme poverty. However, 12.2 percent of citizens are still said to be living on less than $5 a day, suggesting that poverty exists in some form.
While poverty is not widespread in the country, hunger itself is not a major issue though other nutritional concerns persist. To put things into context, here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Bahrain.
Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Bahrain
- Obesity rates increased drastically in recent years, now posing one of the most serious threats to public health in the country. As of 2018, 40 percent of adults and 24 percent of youth are considered to be obese. A shift toward more sedentary lifestyles and changing dietary patterns are to blame for this trend. The growing prevalence of obesity is especially alarming as it can result in an increase of chronic non-communicable diseases, like diabetes and cancer.
- In old and new cities alike, green spaces are extremely limited. Coupled with an intensification of sandstorms resulting in desertification, local crops are threatened and many have even become extinct. To combat this, a new agricultural strategy issued by the government has encouraged farmers to preserve their land, and increase the use of greenhouses in agricultural production to ensure food security.
- Bahrain, like many developing countries, provides a system of subsidies for basic goods and services. By creating a low, fixed price for goods, the government aids citizens who would otherwise be unable to afford necessities like meat, flour or water. In doing so, the government successfully increases gross consumption by poorer households.
- Many low-income Bahraini families benefit from migrant worker remittances. These remittances fund essentials, such as food or utilities, for citizens that otherwise are unable to provide for themselves. Remittances are especially important as they go directly to those in need. According to a study by Adams and Page, a 10 percent increase in per capita official remittances led to a 3.5 percent decrease in total poverty rates.
- Only 3 percent of the female population in Bahrain is considered to have a normal body mass index (BMI). The majority, or 65.8 percent, are considered to be overweight with a BMI of 25 or higher. The remaining 36.8 percent are classified as obese, with a BMI of 30 or higher.
- In 2012, 10 percent of the Bahraini population was born with a low birth weight. A low birth weight is considered by WHO to be 5.5 pounds or less. The proportion of infants born with a low birth rate can be an indicator of many major public health problems, including long-term maternal malnutrition and poor health care during pregnancy.
- As of 2017, only one nutrition professional existed for every 100,000 Bahraini citizens. The lack of adequate training for health professionals is detrimental to nutrition activities and education practices in regular health care. The inability of a country to effectively design and implement nutrition policies and programs directly hurts its citizens, impacting the capacity to plan and deliver nutrition interventions for country-specific health concerns.
- Approximately 35.3 percent of children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 19 are considered to be obese. This is especially alarming as immediate consequences include a greater risk of asthma and cognitive impairment. Moreover, an obese child is more likely to become an overweight adult. In the long run, overweight children face higher risks of heart diseases, as well as mental health and reproductive disorders.
- As of 2012, 3.6 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 were subject to child labor. There are gender disparities as well, as only 3 percent of child workers are female compared to 6.3 percent of male children. Child labor is believed to be caused by poor living conditions, as families who do not have enough income to provide basics like food and water are forced to find a source of income in any way possible. These children are often unpaid family workers, rather than paid workers in manufacturing establishments, for example.
- In 2012, the under-five mortality rate stood at 10 children for every 1,000 live births. High-income and low-income countries have large disparities in child mortality rates. Compared to other higher-income countries averaging 5 deaths for every 1,000 births, Bahrain’s child mortality rates are considered high. These easily preventable deaths often stem from malnutrition and poor living conditions.
Though hunger itself is not a major issue, issues stemming from poor nutrition practices are hurting the country today. Obesity is currently the greatest threat to public health, affecting young and adult populations alike. Those government resources not being used to help fight hunger and malnutrition could then be allocated to educate citizen on better nutrition and health practices.
– Natalie Marie Abdou