Analyzing the nutritional impact of policies in Malawi

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Reducing malnutrition, including undernutrition (insufficient calorie intake) and micronutrient deficiencies (insufficient intake of vitamins and minerals) is a high priority for Malawi and many developing country governments, closely linked to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. However, effective policy intervention requires knowing what causes malnutrition and how different development policies affect the nutritional status of the population. This brief summarizes results of a recent study by Olivier Ecker which examined the nutritional impacts of income and price policies in Malawi, using household survey data and a food demand system model.

Undernutrition and Micronutrition Deficiency are Prevalent in Malawi

Based on Ecker's research, many Malawi households are not getting the required calories and micronutrients recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Ecker used nationally representative household survey data from Malawi's Integrated Household Survey (IHS2) for 2004- 05 to determine the prevalence of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. Focusing on five basic food groups, subdivided into 23 food products, he estimated household consumption of calories, protein, and ten essential micronutrients from the consumption information reported by household members in the survey sample. He found that over one-third (34 percent) of households do not consume enough calories, and many households are below FAO and WHO nutrition requirements in vitamin B12 (84 percent of households), vitamin A (65 percent), zinc (53 percent), iron (46 percent), folate (37 percent), vitamin C (33 percent), and riboflavin (32 percent).

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