Food availability is not a problem in Belize, but large numbers of households living in poverty are prone to food insecurity, due to a lack of access to food because purchasing power is low (Palacio et al., 1997). It is estimated that 25% of Belizean households live in poverty (KAIRA, 1996).
Although little is known about the actual food consumption pattern of Belizeans, it is clear that marked differences exist between the consumption patterns of different ethnic groups and classes. Lifestyle changes in Belize have also had a significant impact on how and what people eat.
Regarding infant feeding practices, in the Toledo district, the late introduction of complementary foods for infants was reported in 1994. A 1997 study found that breast-feeding is more practiced in the rural areas than in the urban areas (PAHO/WHO, 1997). Recently, an infant and young child feeding programme has been initiated (PAHO/WHO, 2001).
National data on nutritional status are lacking. A 1992 National Survey showed that 6% of children less than 5 years were underweight (MOH, 1992). According to WHO classification the prevalence of stunting and wasting are low, however special attention should be directed to the district of Toledo with has a high prevalence of stunting among under fives (39%) (MOE, 1996).
However, in 1996, the National Height Census reported that 15% of male and female children aged 6 to 9 years were stunted (MOE, 1996).
Regarding micronutrient deficiencies, high prevalences of both anaemia and vitamin A deficiency (VAD) were reported. The prevalence of anaemia (Hb<11µg/dL) at the national level was 19% among children (2 to 8 years) and 52% among pregnant women (Makdani et al. 1996; McDonald, 1996). The prevalence of VAD among children (2 to 8 years) at the national level was 24% based on serum retinol levels. In the district of Toledo prevalences of both VAD among children (2 to 8 years) and anaemia among pregnant women are high.
The prevalence of iodine deficiency is low.