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Currently, Egypt is dealing with the emergence of obesity, malnutrition, and chronic diseases. This is related to changes in their food supply and habits. Surveys saw that current trends are leading adults and adolescents to become overweight and suffer from diseases. People who are suffering from obesity the most are women. One of the studies found that women of low socio-economic status had higher rates of obesity than those who have a higher socio-economic status. The relationship between men and SES was not evident. From 1961 to 1985, the death rate for men went from 5 to 39 percent, and 3 to 27 percent for women. The surveys also indicated that Egypt has one of the highest rates in the world for high blood pressure, and now more than ever, cardiovascular disease has been causing mortality in Egyptian men and women. Even though people are becoming overweight, they are also malnutritioned. This is because of urbanization, poor diets, and excessive fat intake.
Egyptians fat intake is predominately from vegetable oil, margarine, and ghee, which is used in many rural areas. Since a large portion of the population is sedentary and does not get enough exercise, it is only making the obesity epidemic worse. Almost half of the meals consumed by Egyptians are away from home, therefore they are consuming more calories by eating at unhealthy restaurants and street vendors. This means they are not preparing and cooking meals the way they used too. We don’t always know what is exactly going in to the food we eat that other people are preparing for us, and if people are always eating from street vendors there is also a real risk of getting a foodborne illness because many street vendors don’t always follow health and safety regulations.
Poverty in urban areas are rising more quickly than rural areas. HIECS data shows that income poverty increased from 19 percent in 2005, to 21 percent in 2009, and then to 25 percent in 2011. With increased poverty, poor dietary variety, and lack of nutritional awareness, the people of Egypt are surviving on cheap, calorie-dense foods with little nutrition. The association between poverty and limited access to nutritious food shows us that food security is still a very concerning issue in Egypt. Because of the high price for quality food, Egyptians aren’t able to afford the types of food needed to maintain good health. They are having to limit their consumption of meat, poultry, dairy, vegetables, and fruit, which is leading to chronic disease, vitamin deficiencies, and overall poor health for many adults and children.
On a positive note, the World Food Program has been doing a lot to help Egypt. “WFP complements the Government’s school feeding initiative by providing food incentives in community schools – one-classroom schools built in remote areas – to encourage parents to send their children to school and keep them there. WFP has also expanded its school feeding activities to include Syrian refugee children enrolled in public schools”. The strategic plan that WFP has in plan for Egypt over the next 5 years will focus on strengthening national capacity to take care of the underlying causes of food insecurity and malnutrition.
Since World War II, political and socio-economic changes affected the economy and the food supply. They implemented a series of policies that resulted in major health and lifestyle changes for Egyptians. In 1939, Egypt published a food composition table of local foods in order to undertake dietary surveys. After the war, the nation conducted three major studies. The first one was in 1981, the second was in 1998, and the third was a continuous monitoring system that started in 1994 with a second round in 1999. The food subsidy was created in the 1960’s. The ‘open-door’ policy was introduced in 1974 and in 1980, there were a series of laws passed that enabled temporary immigration of human resources to rice oil-producing countries.
During the 1990’s, the International Monetary Fund got rid of consumer subsidies and wanted privatization of the economy. Because of these polices, Egypt experienced a huge population growth, averaging 2. 8 percent each year. In 1980, the gap between agricultural production and food consumption reached around 9 million tons in food commodities combined. Since this led to the importation of food, marketplaces were able to increase their availability of food. They were also introduced to processed foods, which made their way into the dietary structure of the country.
Obesity is a major problem in Egypt. Processed foods are cheap and readily available. These foods are calorie dense and offer little to no nutritional value. More and more, fast food chains like Burger King and Mcdonalds have been popping up in Egypt. In Cairo, the streets are filled with fatty foods and since Egypt is struggling with an increase in poverty, the more likely people are going to be eating these foods. They are cheap, convenient, and can also become addicting. Because these foods are so readily available, people will continue to develop diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and fatty liver disease. Since Egypt has the world’s highest number of people suffering from high blood pressure, we can easily see that something must be done about the way these people are living. The people of Egypt are suffering from obesity and malnutrition at the same time, therefore there is a double burden on them.
Malnutrition is a big problem in Egypt, especially in children under 5 years old. Two thirds of child mortality is related to malnutrition and causes of child malnutrition is due to inadequate dietary intake. There has been a major decline in women breast feeding their babies. Breastfeeding rates at 4-5 months of age went from 34 percent down to 29 percent, and then to 13 percent, according to the DHS surveys of 2005, 2008, and 2014. When babies are breastfed, this gives them so much of the nutrients they need to develop and grow properly, and with more women deciding not to breastfeed they are taking the risk of their child being malnourished. The trouble about malnutrition is that it has devastating effects on early childhood growth and development. There can be physical and cognitive developmental impairments among children if they survive.
Anemia is another major health concern in Egypt. Anemia is a condition where there is a deficiency of red cells or haemoglobin in the blood. When the body does not get enough iron, folate, and B-12, symptoms of anemia start to appear. Dizziness, fatigue, paleness, and weakness are just some of the symptoms of anemia. Anemia during pregnancy is one of the leading causes of anemia in infants and children. This is affecting nearly 27 percent of children under 5, and 25 percent of women within her reproductive years.
One of the ways in which I believe could help many Egyptians is by continuing to educate them about the importance of a healthy diet. And although many people might not have a choice in the matter due to the high cost of food, there are programs available to help people who are in need. Subsidies for food need to be used towards nutritious foods so that problems like malnutrition and obesity can be fought. I also believe that the women of Egypt need to be more aware of the consequences of not breastfeeding their children. Living in poverty and struggling to find quality food is already hard enough, when you are not breastfeeding your child you are denying them the important nutrients and antibodies they need to survive. There is an over abundance of unhealthy food available everywhere you turn.
Unless we get rid of these unhealthy places for good, then we’re not going to see an epic change in the nation’s over all health and well being, so therefore there needs to be a major shift in the way Egypt is being fed. America shares many of the same issues that Egypt is struggling with when it comes to unhealthy eating habits, obesity, and diseases. People will continue to eat at these places as long as it keeps being offered to them.
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