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Malnutrition Lingers in Post-Soviet World: Report

Tajikistan remains at risk for problems caused by undernourishment, while obesity is a rising problem across the region.

17 March 2017

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Poor nutrition remains a stubborn problem in parts of Central Asia and the Caucasus, with the looming threat of obesity on the horizon, according to a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization.


After the collapse of the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago, serious undernourishment was the overriding problem for countries such as Georgia, Armenia, and Tajikistan, the report (pdf) states. Gradually, rising living standards have reduced this problem nearly everywhere in the region.


“As countries in the region have become more affluent, the availability of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) and their associated calories, even in the poorest countries, has risen well above minimal daily needs” – except in Tajikistan, the authors write.


But in Central Asia’s wealthiest country, Kazakhstan, along with many parts of Eastern Europe, the main nutritional concern now is with overnutrition and the resulting problem of obesity.


Undernourishment and obesity can and do co-exist in the region. A report last year by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) found that while high rates of childhood stunting plague Armenia and Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and the other four Central Asian states are seeing more overweight adults.


Undernutrition and vitamin deficiencies are most prevalent in Central Asia and the Caucasus, while Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and countries in the Balkans are also seeing a rise in overnutrition, the FAO reports says.



  • More than 55 percent of adults in Europe and Central Asia are overweight or obese, the FAO reported in 2015. Childhood obesity is a rising problem in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.


  • “Anemia in both children and adults is a public health problem across the region, but highest in the countries of Central Asia,” the FAO warned.
Compiled by Ky Krauthamer
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