Egypt is the largest Arab country by population and possesses the second largest economy in the Arab world. Egypt is an independent republic with a democratic government. The annual average population growth rate was 1.9% for the 1995-2000 period. The last three decades showed slow paced urbanization in comparison to the expected fast pace for the following three decades. Thus, dietary energy supplies will have to increase in the following years.

The share of energy supply of both carbohydrates and proteins increased during the last two decades in comparison to the contribution of fats, which decreased gradually. The availability of major food groups has increased, apart from the supplies of vegetable oils and animal fats which decreased gradually. Although the major food groups are available and there was an increase in the dietary energy supply; maldistribution of the available food supplies, according to the different socio-economic classes occurred.

Food consumption studies showed that consumption of animal protein and animal fat were higher among urban areas. Consumption of fat & oils and sugar are within the healthy range as recommended by WHO. Results showed that the intake of vitamin A, iron, calcium, iodine, selenium and zinc are insufficient. Cereals represent the main source of energy in the Egyptian diet.

Child growth, development and well being are determined by the feeding practices and nutritional status of the child. Infant feeding practices in most of Egypt surveys showed that the majority of infants are breastfed. Exclusive breast-feeding is common but not universal in early infancy. Surveys showed that breast-feeding continued for the majority of children beyond the first year of life. The percentage of children aged 6-9 months who received both breast milk and solid food is higher in urban areas. In rural areas, mothers are more likely to initiate and continue breast-feeding than mothers in urban areas.

The results of nationwide nutrition surveys suggest that the nutritional status of young children in Egypt has improved during the 1995-2000 period. The main problem among pre-school child is stunting which is considered a moderate public health problem according to WHO criteria. Different surveys in Egypt concluded that the primary nutritional problem for many Egyptian adults is a tendency towards obesity.

Regarding micronutrient deficiencies; anaemia is considered the most prevalent. The groups most affected are preschool children and their mothers. According to WHO criteria, iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is considered to be a moderate public health problem in Egypt. Also, vitamin A deficiency (VAD) among preschoolers and their mothers is considered to be a subclinical, mild-to-moderate, public health problem. According to the figures in the latest surveys, iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) were considered a public health problem, since the total goitre rate (TGR) was higher than 5% among different vulnerable populations. After the current programs of vitamin A supplementation for young children and mothers during the postpartum period, as well as the universal salt iodization, an improvement in the micronutrient malnutrition indicators is expected.

© FAO 2010