Following the War of Independence, the Turkish Republic was founded in 1923 and Turkey proceeded to found its political and legal systems on modern, secular european models in line with the principles of first president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The political system of Turkey is parliamentary democracy. In Turkey, the demographic structure is relatively young. The annual average population growth rate was 1.7% for the 1995-2000 period.

Turkey has been implementing some routine and special programmes on maternal, child health and family planning for a long time. Although significant declining trend in infant and under-five mortality rates between regions, urban and rural areas, and the educational level of the mother were observed, the mortality rates are still high. The infant mortality and under-five mortality rates are 42.7 and 52 per thousand live births, respectively. Breastfeeding in Turkey is widespread. Almost all Turkish children (95%) are breastfed for some period of time. The median duration of breastfeeding is 12 months, but supplementary foods and liquids are introduced at an early age. Diarrhoea is a prevalent disease of children under age of five in Turkey with a prevalence of 30%. By age five 16% of children are stunted, 8.3% as underweight and 1.9% wasted. This situation indicates that there was a little change in the nutritional status of children within the five year period.

Obesity is a problem among child-bearing age of women. According to Body Mass Index calculations 52.2 % of women are overweight (BMI >25 kg/m2), of which 18.8% are obese (BMI >30 kg/m2). Chronic undernutrition among adult women is not a problem. Only 2.6 % of women had Body Mass Index below 18.5 kg/m2. Micronutrient deficiences are important problems of under-five years old children, preschool children and child-bearing age women.

According to FAO Food Balance Sheets, Turkish people appeared to be well nourished. But maldistribution of food, and quality are not properly demonstrated. Over the past years, a number of nutrition surveys have been conducted on regional levels covering socio-economic, age and gender groups. There is a great need for a nation-wide survey in order to put out the changes in social, economic and nutritional status, showing the trends and that the findings could be used in food and nutrition policies. Although such survey is planned, and there is a man-power for it, due to financial restrictions, it could not be done.

Wheat is a staple food for the Turkish people. The major percentage of energy comes from bread (44%) and bread with other cereals (58%). Yogurt is the most frequently used milk product. Fresh fruits and vegetables are available throughout the year, and widely consumed. Oil and fat consumption show regional variations, as olive oil is mostly consumed in western and southern parts. The average diet is adequate to meet recommended daily intake of energy and most of the nutrients while animal protein, calcium, vitamin A and riboflavin are lower than the recommended daily allowances. Usually three meals are eaten in the country. The results of regional surveys indicate that there are differences among families, sub-groups and seasons in terms of energy and nutrient intakes. The most important parameter influencing food consumption pattern is income level and lack of knowledge. The problem is not the availability of food but its maldistribution.

Turkey has the opportunity to provide its population to lead healthier and longer lives.The attainment of this aim depends on the implementation of rational policies and management of resources. A Five Year Plan and Supplementary Documents (2001-2005) are prepared to fill this demand.

© FAO 2010