The Cape Verdean diet is mainly based on cereals (maize, rice, and wheat), vegetables, starchy roots, and fish. Over the course of these last decades, the diet has become more diversified and includes now more protein- and micronutrient-rich foods (meat, dairy products, fruit and vegetables). As a feature of the nutrition transition, fat- and sugar-rich foods have also become more common in the diet, which may cause significant public health problems rapidly.

As agricultural production is extremely limited due to the small area of arable land and irregular rainfall, the country is highly dependant on imports, especially for basic food products. In the context of the global increase in staple foods prices, the strong reduction in food aid delivered to the country, and poverty which declines but remains widespread in rural areas, Cape Verde still has to ensure household economic access to food, a major determinant of food security within the country.

Awareness campaigns on adequate young child feeding practices have had a significant positive impact, notably on exclusive breastfeeding. Complementary feeding is quite diversified and although efforts are still needed, young child feeding practices are globally satisfying.

The country’s progress in the areas of health and living conditions, efforts in nutritional education and improvement in young child feeding practices have entailed a significant decline in chronic and acute malnutrition, which are currently at low levels. Iodine deficiencies disorders declined considerably during the 2000s, due to the implementation of the universal salt iodization strategy. Updated data are needed with regard to vitamin A deficiency in young children. The large decline in iron deficiency in children under five has not continued over the last years and anemia remained a severe public health problem in 2009. Iron supplementation, deworming campaigns and nutrition education should continue to reduce iron deficiency in children.

The expansion of vaccination coverage and access to primary health care services, combined with awareness campaigns, contributed to a large decrease in young child mortality.

Among women, nutritional transition is causing a rapid and significant increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity. Vitamin A deficiency should be re-evaluated so as to assess the necessity to increase the vitamin A intake of mothers. Anemia is still a major problem. The iron intake of pregnant women, who are widely affected by anemia, should be increased. Wheat flour is fortified with iron and folic acid and that should allow iron deficiency to decline in the population.

Significant progress has been done in the field of maternal health, access to health services and to healthy environment. Among other factors, this has led to a decline in infectious and parasitic diseases, while non communicable chronic diseases are rising rapidly.

Cape Verde has made considerable efforts to improve the nutritional status of its population. The country should now reinforce accessibility and awareness of healthy balanced diets, to achieve sustainable elimination of micronutrient deficiencies and to curb non communicable chronic diseases related to food.

© FAO 2010