What is ‘hidden hunger’: A real threat for Georgian children

17 Jul 2015 - 20:33

  • The report stated children in the Adjara and Guria regions of Georgia were mostly afflicted by hidden hunger. Photo by N. Alavidze/Agenda.ge
Agenda.ge, 17 Jul 2015 - 20:33, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia suffers from "hidden hunger” – an ailment resulting from poor nutrition, particularly iron and iodine deficiency, leading to stunted growth in children.

The term has been coined by Oxfam to describe situations where people consume calories but the food they are eating does not feed their bodies, leaving them malnourished and unhealthy.

An initial report by the globally renowned aid and development charity organisation used data collected over several years (2008-2013) to assess the overall health of the Georgian population, and revealed some alarming results.

The report stated children in the Adjara and Guria regions of Georgia were mostly afflicted by hidden hunger; about 20 percent of children from these regions were victims of growth retardation.

Other regions where children had stunted growth were Racha and Svaneti (15 percent). The lowest rate was observed in Kakheti region and capital city Tbilisi.

UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) revealed 32 percent of Georgian children had enlarged thyroid glands, while 22.8 percent of children aged younger than five had anemia, as did 25.6 percent of pregnant women.

Another major problem facing the Georgian population because of poor nutrition was obesity, the research revealed.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the 2008 research showed 16 percent of men and 27 percent of women in Georgia were obese. If current trends continued, WHO warned about a possible obesity epidemic occurring in Georgia in the coming years.

Unhealthy nutrition contributed to rising cardiovascular diseases in Georgia, which was the main reason of mortality in 2010. The research showed 94 percent of the population had at least one risk-factor of heart disease.

What causes obesity and growth retardation?

The majority (95 percent) of Georgia’s population eats more calories than what’s recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. While the calorie count may be high, the foods consumed have little nutritional value and end up starving the person of necessary vitamins and minerals.

Research showed the Georgian population does not have a varied diet and people mainly consume bread and similar products. On this note, 62 percent of calories from a Georgian person’s diet came from starchy food items, while in developed nations this did not exceed 15 percent.

While it was extremely important to eat a varied diet, diverse food options was not affordable for the average consumer in Georgia, noted the research.

The population tries to save money by refusing to eat a varied diet. Very important and useful food products for diversified nutrition are very expensive in Georgia. Such products are meat, fish, dairy products, fresh fruit and vegetables. The cost of these products is increasing gradually,” the research explained.

However data from Caucasus Barometer said a number of people who claimed not to have enough money to buy food decreased in 2013. Despite this, 60 percent of the Georgian population still could not afford to buy meat.

Latest figures from the country’s National Statistics Office, Geostat said the cost of several basic goods and services in Georgia was dropping. Prices were decreasing for milk, cheese, eggs and vegetables however consumers were paying more for fruit.

At the same time, the amount of money a person needed to support themselves in Georgia was slowly rising.

Geostat figures showed the minimum subsistence level for an able-bodied male in June 2015 was almost 162 GEL. This was about 12 GEL higher than in June 2014, where the minimum subsistence level was 149.6 GEL.

For the average consumer, the minimum subsistence level was 143 GEL. Last month this figure was 143.4 GEL, while in June 2014 a person needed 132.5 GEL to survive.

For an average family the minimum subsistence level reached 270.8 GEL in June this year.