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Chronic malnutrition down in El Salvador

  |   SUN Country Network

Between 2007 and 2016, El Salvador recorded a fall in chronic malnutrition in girls and boys in the first grade of education in 93.4 per cent of its municipalities, according to the fourth National Height Survey and first National Weight Survey of schoolchildren, presented by authorities in the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and the National Food and Nutrition Security Council (CONASAN). The national reduction over this period was 42 per cent, according to data taken from both censuses, which received support from international aid organizations.

Another of the main findings for this period and related to this fall was the increased height of girls and boys. Girls gained 1.7 centimetres and boys 1.8 centimetres. The outcome of these gains is that girls and boys have better conditions for their development. Childhood malnutrition has a direct impact on the development of the brain: malnourished children can lose up to 40 per cent of their potential neurones. The factors that have made these good nutrition results possible are related to the Government policies that have been implemented, especially during the last two Administrations.

They include the supplementary food that the Ministry of Health and the Social Investment Fund for Local Development (FISDL) give to pregnant women and children aged under five years who need it; the School Food and Health and School Milk programmes in place from nursery school onwards; and the supplementary food provided in centres of the Salvadorean Institute for the Holistic Development of Children and Adolescents (ISNA) and the Ministry of Health’s Rural Health and Nutrition Centres.

These factors come on top of good national results for production of basic grains, equivalent to 26.5 million quintals, and increased health service coverage that enables better monitoring of girls’ and boys’ growth and development. Both censuses also acknowledge challenges in this area: although 90.95 per cent of first grade pupils fell into the normal height range, 9.05 per cent showed some degree of stunting.


Nationally, there are higher levels of chronic malnutrition in the departamentos of Ahuachapán, Sonsonate, Morazán and Cuscatlán; girls and boys living in rural areas have a higher incidence (11.34 per cent) than those living in the towns (6.43 per cent).

Also, while 67.43 per cent of first-grade pupils were classified as having normal nutritional condition, 30.74 per cent were classified as being overweight or obese.

The departamentos with the highest obesity rates are San Salvador, La Libertad, Chalatenango and San Vicente, with a higher incidence in urban areas (17.7 per cent) than in rural settings (10 per cent), and in private schools (44 per cent) than in State schools (28 per cent).

To reverse this trend, the Salvadorean Government has set up Healthy Canteens within the school system, under the General Education Act and in line with the Healthy School Shops and Canteens Regulations developed by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Solidarity Health Fund (FOSALUD) and the Consumer Ombudsman.


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