Throughout the last two decades, the overall nutritional status of Haitian children under five years of age has improved. The prevalence of underweight has decreased from 37 % in 1978 to 28 % in 1995. In the same period, there was a more limited reduction in the prevalence of chronic malnutrition, measured by stunting (from 40 % to 32 %). Acute malnutrition (wasting) has dropped from 9 % in 1978 to 4 % in 1995. Thus, while the prevalence of wasting is medium that of stunting is still high according to WHO criteria.
Few anthropometric data are currently available on adolescents and adults. This is also true for displaced persons and populations living in marginalized urban areas who undoubtedly have nutritional problems that would be worth surveying.
There are also few data on micronutrient deficiencies - iodine, iron and vitamin A.
The most recent assessment of iodine deficiency, carried out in 1991 in the central Plateau area among all age groups, showed an Overall Goitre Rate (OGR) of 10%, with women more affected than men; 13% and 5%, respectively. Urinary iodine excretion assessed in 1996-97 on a sample of children aged 6 to 14 years of age in the West, Centre and Artibonite departments showed a prevalence of low urinary excretion varying between 13 % and 49 %.
The data for 1975 on Vitamin A deficiency in children aged 0 to 6 years showed a prevalence of 0.8% of conjunctival xerosis in the North region against 0.12% in the South. More recent data collected for the same age group at national level in 1995-97 showed a higher prevalence of conjunctival xerosis although a programme of routine distribution of vitamin A capsules has been implemented since the beginning of the 1980s.
From 35 to 50 % of pregnant women are thought to be affected by iron deficiency anaemia, according to data routinely collected within the health system. The situation is assumed to be similar among pre-school children.
Since 1965 agricultural production has stagnated. While locally produced foods covered 70-75% of food needs in the beginning of the 1970s, they only covered 50-55 % of needs in 1996-97. Food imports, despite a regular increase of their share of total food availabilities, hardly covered the deficit. At the same time, the population growth rate is 1.9% a year.