The Moroccan diet is Mediterranean and based on an important consumption of cereals, fruit and vegetables. The diet is gradually diversifying above all for the urban households and the high-income group. It includes more micronutrient-rich foods but the consumption of food of animal origin remains limited despite the country’s abundant resources, in fish in particular. The consumption of processed and ready-to-eat food and the outside home consumption are more and more common in urban areas and increase the consumption of sugar- and fat-rich foods. This is a sign of the nutritional transition ongoing both in urban and rural areas. Along with a decrease in the level of physical activity, these changes generate a rise in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the adult population.
The per capita supply of cereal has increased regularly since the sixties, notably supported by massive imports. Morocco has a great agricultural potential: it produces mainly wheat and barley but the domestic production is absolutely not sufficient to meet with demand. The high dependency on imports of cereals exposes Morocco to the variability of international food prices. The meat and fish supply, even growing, remains very limited. The dietary energy supply is much higher than the population requirements and the prevalence of undernourishment is low.
Some of the infant and young child feeding practices show worrying trends: exclusive breastfeeding rate until the age of 6 months is falling, bottle feeding is becoming common and complementary feeding, even though relatively diversified, is still introduced too early or too late.
In 2003-2004, almost a quarter of the under five children were stunted. The prevalence of growth retardation though is declining since the late eighties. On the other hand, the prevalence of wasting shows a preoccupying upward trend. Probable contributing factors are inadequate young child feeding practices, persistent drought in some rural areas (regions of Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz and of Souss-Massa-Draa in particular) and incidence of poverty, which is still high in certain regions. The prevalence of overweight among young children remained stable these last years.
Women’s nutritional status is reflective of the nutritional transition and of the double burden of malnutrition that the country is undergoing. While almost one woman out of ten still suffers from chronic energy deficiency, nearly 40% are overweight or obese. Overweight and obesity, even if more widespread in urban areas, exist however also in rural areas.
At the beginning of the nineties, iodine deficiency disorders were a public health problem in Morocco. The universal salt iodization strategy (adopted in 1996) benefits only to a restricted number of households. Recent data are lacking to evaluate the current level of the deficiency. Among young children, vitamin A deficiency was a severe public health problem at the end of the nineties; the lack of up-to-date data does not allow assessing the necessity for an extension of the supplementation coverage. Among women, vitamin A deficiency is not widespread. Anemia was a public health problem, affecting a third of children and a third of non pregnant women in 2000. The iron supplementation coverage of pregnant women is very limited. Long term interventions were implemented to combat these deficiencies, in particular the fortification of oil with vitamins A and D and the fortification of flour in iron and vitamins B. These strategies were strengthened up by nutrition education campaigns.
In a context of sustained economic growth, of poverty reduction, of better access to safe water and to health care, and of political support to the agricultural sector, Morocco has currently a great opportunity to improve durably the diet and the nutritional status of its population.