The nutritional status of children below 5 years of age improved between 1989 and 1998 with respect to stunting (Height/Age) and underweight (Weight/Age).

Important differences in the levels of malnutrition in children under 5 years old persist in the regions. The region of Llano shows the best indicators, whereas the Plateau shows the highest levels of malnutrition. The departments of Potosí and Chuquisaca showed the highest levels of underweight and stunting surpassed a level of 30% in 3 of the 9 existing departments.

The results of the Census of Stature for students in 1989-90 confirmed a high level of stunting (35%), with males between the ages of 6 to 9 years most affected. The situation was more serious in the rural area (40%) and in 18 provinces of the departments of Potosí, Cochabamba and Chuquisaca, characterised by high rates of poverty and illiteracy, lack of infrastructure and basic services, plus little or no potential for farming production.

The only information for adolescents (12-17 years) was collected in 1993 in the schools of the city of La Paz and demonstrated a prevalence of stunting of 19%. Adult information at the national level does not exist.

The prevalence of iodine deficiency has decreased in the last few years. The Total Goitre Rate in students of 6 to 18 years decreased from 61% in 1981 to 21% in 1989. A study conducted in 1994 for children between 8 and 10 years indicated a Total Goitre Rate of around 5%. The prevalence of anaemia in women was reduced to 27% and in smaller children of 5 years increase to 67%. Vitamin A deficiency is considered to be the main micronutrient deficiency. In 1984-85, the prevalence of nocturnal blindness in children of 1 to 5 years in depressed zones of the country varied between 2% and 5%.

Recent national data does not exist for food consumption; however, studies for densely populated cities with the same conditions as previously mentioned show a low energy food intake. According to a study in rural populations with food markets, food intake improved when compared to previously registered studies.

The level of food security is characterised by insufficient food production, which is compensated by the import of food aid. This causes an external dependency, although it has been decreasing. In addition, problems of poor household food access and poor nutrient bioavailability are present in a country where 47% of the population is poor and lacking basic services and infrastructure, especially in the poorest rural areas. From 1996, administrative decentralisation has given special attention to the less developed provinces, to provide programs of education, health and food security, as well as the development of social information systems.

© FAO 2010