Bhutan is at a crossroad of a triple burden of malnutrition, brought about by modern lifestyle and its related health issues, according to a report titled ‘Overview of Nutrition in Bhutan 2019-2023’ which was released by the Word Food Programme in Bhutan (WFP) this month.
While the report maintains that hunger is no longer a public issue with wasting having been brought down to 4% and underweight to 9%, stunting, however, was found to be persistent at 21% and overweight/obesity emerging and increasing in Bhutan’s population with 11.4% of Bhutanese obese and 33.5% overweight.
“Micronutrient deficiencies remain a major public health issue,” states the report.
Similarly, anaemia, a proxy indicator for micronutrient deficiencies, was found to be at 44% for 6-59 months old children.
“Over 35% of non-pregnant women and 31% of adolescent girls are also anaemic – an important indicator of future health as 6% of girls get married by the age of 15, and 26% by the age of 18. More than one in five preschool aged children and 17% of pregnant women are deficient in Vitamin A,” states the report.
Further, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), according to the WFP, continues to be the main health expenditure in the country, responsible for 69% of Bhutan’s disease burden and 71% of deaths (2019) caused by hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.
“In terms of diets, the risk factor survey of 2019 records 86% of Bhutanese do not consume adequate vegetables and fruits, and salt consumption remains at 8.3 grams, significantly higher than the recommended daily intake of 5 grams,” states the report.
Accordingly, the nutrition status of children is reportedly no different with 3.9% of children under five years and 11.4% of school aged children overweight.
School children are also big consumers of junk food – 40% of students drink carbonated soft drinks and 32.2% eat fast food four days in a week.
Staff Reporter from Thimphu