The nutritional status of children under 5 years old at the national level in 1997/98 reflected low levels of underweight (4%) and stunting (8%). Wasting or acute malnutrition is not a problem, not even among the rural population (1%). The percentage of overweight is 4%. The prevalence rates of underweight and stunting in the rural areas are double those found in the urban areas and, according to the survey of 1990, almost 3 times higher in the Northern less densely populated region than in Gran Asunción.
According to the 1993 National Census of Height among first grade students, the prevalence of stunting was 10.3%. However, this figure was higher in several departments such as Canindeyú (15.3%), San Pedro (14.6%), Amambay (13.4%) and Guairá (13.2%). Several districts within these departments even displayed a 25% rate of low height/age. The nutritional status of schoolchildren and adolescents in the urban metropolitan region of Asunción is characterized by a high prevalence of overweight and obesity. The nutritional status of adolescents and adults is not documented.
The study of urinary elimination of iodine undertaken in 1996 in nine health regions revealed that 21.3% of school children had levels below 50 µg/dL. This is a significant improvement compared with 43% in 1988 also reflecting the activation of the salt iodisation programme in 1989. The health regions most affected by this deficiency are located in the mission departments and Cordillera. The study conducted in 1999/2000 in 18 sanitary regions signals that the situation has improved markedly since 1996, although there still are departments (particularly Paraguarí, Alto Paraguay) where school children have low urinary iodine levels below 50 µg/L.
The only data referring to iron-deficiency anaemia are from 1994 and cover pregnant women assisted by health services in the health region of the central department. The data reveal an anaemia rate of 34% (Hb <110 g/L).
There are no current data on vitamin A deficiency and there is no updated information on food consumption. Despite its limitations, the information indicates that there are no serious problems of malnutrition among the population except perhaps for specific micronutrient deficiencies among certain population groups that need better documentation. Nevertheless, owing to an increase in risk factors, malnutrition is considered to represent a public health problem.
With regard to food security, the average availability of calories and nutrients has been sustained above requirements during the last 30 years. However, great differences exist in consumption levels among households, owing basically to unequal income levels. Poverty data from 1997/98 show 32% of population in Paraguay being poor and 17% extremely poor.