Government Acknowledges Widespread Malnutrition

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The health ministry estimates that at least one in three Armenia’s suffers from malnutrition–it was announced on Friday. The government said the alarming statistics require urgent action–announcing a five-year plan designed to tackle the problem.

During a seminar at the American University of Armenia–health ministry officials said the average food consumption in Armenia is 2040 calories a day against the physiological minimum of 2400 calories. They said meat and dairy products are not accessible for a considerable part of Armenia’s population. Consequently–30 percent of children and 16 percent of women’suffer from anemia.

Agriculture Minister Vladimir Movsisian said the government’s National Food Program involves food relief for the poor and a set of measures to boost agricultural production and food processing. He said the authorities plan to open a "network of charity canteens" for the most disadvantaged strata of the population. This is supposed to cover about 37,000 people–he said.

Agricultural land in Armenia was privatized in the early 1990s. However–most of 75,000 small farms languish at subsistence level–lacking mechanization and fertilizers. According to Movsisian–at least $40 million needs to be invested in the agricultural sector.

Movsisian said the program aims to make it easier for farmers to receive loans. He said the government will strive to develop wholesale agricultural markets and insurance mechanisms.

The seminar was organized in collaboration with the European Union’s Food Commission. The EU has provided Armenia with up to 10 million ECU in annual food relief in recent years.

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