Republic of Tunisia

SUMMARY

The Republic of Tunisia is a country of North-Africa with a high potential for development. The country covers a land area of 163 610 km2 communicating with the Sahara to the South and the Mediterranean to the East. The climate is mild in the North but becomes dry and hot towards the South.

Although it depends on rainfall, Tunisian agriculture has achieved self-sufficiency for certain foods and exports part of its fruit and vegetable production. The economy is diversifying and has had good results.

The family planning policy and emigration have prevented a demographic boom. Migration to urban centres has transformed the country which is now mostly urban. Although it is ageing, the population remains young.

Access to health services and education has improved noticeably. Infant mortality has declined substantially, while immunization coverage is high, public spending on health has increased, and enrolment in primary education has improved noticeably. Efforts are still needed to reduce illiteracy of women and to develop basic infrastructure in the rural sector, especially in the South and West.  

Trends in food supplies show that the country is engaging in a nutrition transition. Supplies largely exceed population energy needs. Three food groups, cereals, oil and sweeteners, provide three-quarters of the energy supply. Although the diet is rich in energy there is a simultaneous increase in fruit and vegetable consumption. Consequently the food diversification index is improving.

Some infant and young child feeding practices are healthy, for example, the high prevalence of breastfeeding and its early initiation. Other practices need to be improved, particularly complementary feeding. The prevalence of malnutrition among children under five years has regressed considerably. In 2000, one child in ten was stunted, while prevalence was higher in the South and Centre West. In parallel, prevalence of overweight is increasing among children as well as that of overweight and obesity among women.

Micronutrient deficiencies have regressed considerably but are still prevalent. The widespread consumption of iodized salt is leading the country to eradication of iodine deficiencies disorders. Vitamin A deficiency has not been identified as a public health problem. Although living standards have improved considerably, anemia continues to be a major public health problem in the whole country and especially in the Southern regions.

© FAO 2010