ýA Better Diet [Archives:1997/44/Viewpoint]

November 3 1997

for Our Kids
According to many studies, the health condition of Yemeni children is deteriorating. Various levels of malnutrition are visible among the kids.
The main culprit for this situation is, of course, poverty. Over 40% of the Yemeni population is now classified as living under the subsistence or poverty line level. This is the main reason for the malnutrition that has become so prevalent.
But there is another reason. The Yemeni diet is not a balanced one. A quick glance at the kind of meals cooked in Yemeni homes would show that we need to upgrade the diet. What are we talking about? Here are some ideas that analyze the food-intake and how it can be improved.
1. Beyond the One Input Meals: The largest part of a Yemeni meal is made up of grain – either sorghum or increasingly wheat. This is rational because grains are inexpensive and they are filling. But, it is also feasible, for the same money, the family can buy more vegetables to give a more balanced diet. If the consideration are low cost and more filling foods, potatoes, for examples, are a good alternative. The same can be said of fruits. Here I can name bananas. At the end of the day, the reason people stick to grains is logically proven over the years. But grains can be supplemented by cheaper and more filling vegetables and fruits.
2. New Cooking Skills: One of the reasons why people do not try new dishes is not just economics. It also has to do with cooking skills. The dishes women cook have been inherited over the ages. No new cooking skills are intentionally introduced. Television programs, for example, offer no cooking skills. At schools, no cooking lessons are given. Of course, there are changes in our eating habits, but these are introduced in our lives in an accidental and slow manner. A more planned approach to help improve the nation’s cooks – the women, is going to help.
3. Guiding/Shaping Tastes: Yemenis are carnivorous. They like to eat a lot of meat. This is a rational development given their craving for meat in their diets. A certain level of meat intake is healthy. I am using this phenomenon to point to the need to some education on the issue of good eating. People’s tastes are shaped by information regarding the nutritious value as well as hazards of certain foods. Advertising also affects our tastes. The main thing, however, is that a concerted effort is needed to help guide people regarding what they eat.
Malnutrition among children is a dangerous problem. Its future costs are enormous. It leads to stunted growth and more vulnerability. Therefore, it deserves our immediate attention.
Although I have offered above some educational tips regarding how to combat malnutrition, I believe some substantive measures, like offering food supplements in schools in poor neighborhoods should be considered. Charity organizations and NGOs, in direct or indirect partnership with the state could handle this responsibility. Malnutrition is an issue we must address.

By: Pro. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf Editor-in-Chief and Publisher