Studies in El Salvador have shown that children less than five years old have been malnourished throughout the last three decades. Stunting (low height for age) is the most important problem. The prevalence of stunting among children less than five years old has decreased by more than half from 44% in 1979 to 32% in 1988 and 23% in 1993. According to the recent results of the FESAL survey in 1998, half of children in rural areas are stunted, and the prevalence rates are highest in the departments of and Cuscatlan (in the latter, 30% of children were stunted, half of whom severely so i.e. falling below -3 SD). All studies carried out at the national level look at children less than five years old, and for this reason, anthropometric data for adolescents and adults is not available.
Micronutrient deficiencies, mainly iron, vitamin A and iodine, are all present in El Salvador as shown already in the first national nutrition survey in the sixties. These deficiencies were considered to be national public health problems. Currently, the law of iodisation of salt is being implemented, along with programmes for the fortification of sugar with vitamin A, as well as flour of wheat and maize with iron and folic acid. Although their prevalence has decreased, these deficiencies continue to be a public health problem.
The two food consumption surveys carried out in El Salvador showed a decreasing total dietary energy intake from 2175 to 1833 kcal/pers/day in 1965-67 and in 1988, respectively.
El Salvador has suffered a civil war in the eighties, causing a reduced food access and also important displacement of populations from rural areas where most of the cereal internal demand was produced. Food aid has greatly increased in order to cover the demand in food availability, although a decrease in true consumption has been registered.