Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, situated in North Africa, is a mostly desert country
facing strong constraints in terms of availability of water resources and of
food self-sufficiency. The population is relatively young, mostly urban and
concentrated in the coastal area. Agriculture is not sufficiently productive
to meet the food needs of the population. The country's economy, largely state
controlled, is heavily dependant on oil production and exports.
The government has invested in health care, sanitation and education. As a
result, levels of immunization of children are high, polio has been eradicated,
access to improved water sources and sanitation is good, and important efforts
are made to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The food supply, characterized by a high availability of fruit and vegetables,
has increased markedly overtime, particularly since the late 1970s. The dietary
energy supply largely satisfies the population's energy requirements. Moreover
the three most important food groups, cereals, oil and sweeteners provide almost
three quarters of the energy supply. This diet, dense in energy and poor in
micronutrients is conducive to overnutrition. Currently, Libya is totally dependant
on imports of cereals.
Breastfeeding is widespread and its early initiation is common. However, the
duration of exclusive breastfeeding remains very short and bottle-feeding is
frequent. In 1995, almost one child out of six was stunted, but more recent
estimates are needed to assess the current nutritional status of preschool
children. Meanwhile the country is undergoing a nutrition transition. Consequently
adult women are affected by a high prevalence of overweight and obesity. Among
women both undernutrition and overnutrition are prevalent. The country thus
suffers from the double burden of malnutrition.
Due to lack of data, assessing the extent of micronutrient deficiencies remains
difficult. A salt iodization programme is in place but no data are available
to assess its impact. Prevalence of vitamin A deficiency is not documented.
Anemia could be a major public health issue, as recent but limited data from
Tripoli, the capital, showed that more than two-thirds of school-age children
were affected. There is currently no programme to address iron deficiency anemia.
It is of vital importance to carry out a national nutrition survey to assess
the current prevalence of nutrition problems, to target vulnerable groups and
to define effective strategies to combat both undernutrition and overnutrition.