Food and Diet
Despite an abundance of cultivable land, Belize depended on imports of food. Government figures indicated that the average household spent at least 29 percent of its budget on imported food during the 1980s. Urban and upper-income groups averaged higher percentages. Food imports included not only items such as dairy products, canned meats, and vegetables, but also staples such as rice and red kidney beans, which were also produced locally. Diet varied by culture as well as class, with Maya and rural Mestizos preferring large amounts of corn. Garifuna consumed large quantities of fish. The national dish, however, consisted of rice and beans.
Available statistics indicated that at least 40 percent of infants nationwide suffered from at least moderate malnutrition and that 61 percent of children under three years of age suffered some form of malnutrition. Because the government based this conclusion only on surveys of sick persons who visited health clinics, the actual incidence of malnutrition and anemia was probably higher, particularly among the most marginal and impoverished sectors of the population. Poor sanitation in rural areas also contributed to high incidence of intestinal parasites, especially among children.
Nutrition and health were major targets of foreign assistance from sources including the United States Peace Corps, the Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere (CARE), Project Hope, Project Concern, and a variety of international agencies, such as the Pan American Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). At least twelve other organizations, including Canadian and a number of European governments, contributed to health and nutrition programs during the 1980s. The Belize Ministry of Health and other local governmental agencies played a supporting role to these programs.
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