Summary: This nutrition review of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is intended to develop a base of knowledge and a sector strategy, and to help fulfill the World Bank's mandate for poverty reduction. This is the first comprehensive overview of nutritional issues in the region, putting together the problems in an overall economic development context. The review focuses on the health implications of nutritional issues , and supplements a regional study of food subsidy programs and the regional health, nutrition, and population sector strategy paper. The findings of this review are sometimes troubling, and often surprising. Although the nutritional status of most people in MENA countries has improved over the last two decades, undernutrition and micro-nutrient deficiencies--such as iron, iodine, and vitamin D deficiencies--remain a serious threat to public health. Even though nutritional deficiencies are strongly linked to poverty, economic progress does not always improve nutritional status. Thus, even in well-performing economies, progress has been uneven, leaving pockets of poverty in its wake, especially among rural populations. This also suggests that not only income but the status of women, their educational attainment, cultural factors, food and agricultural policies, and access to various social services including health care and clean water are critical factors affecting nutrition and nutritional disorders.
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