Skyrocketing food prices and inflation have hit the average Tanzanian family hard, with one in every five households being forced to change its eating patterns.

The situation is so bad that some families have reduced the number of meals they have as a way of coping with the hardships brought about by the rise in commodity prices, with the number of low income households that could afford three meals a day decreasing by about 20 per cent since the end of 2010.

Food and nutrition experts are now raising the alarm following the release yesterday of a report compiled by the Dar es Salaam Mobile Phone Public Services Monitoring Project in collaboration with Twaweza.

According to the report, many people have abandoned meat, fish and chicken and opted for much cheaper foods. Slightly more than four out of every 10 households in the lowest income bracket, at 43.6 per cent, reported in 2010 that they typically had three meals a day. That number dropped to 35.2 per cent in 2011.

Inflation bites
The baseline study, funded by the World Bank to assess the effects of rising food prices on the lives of citizens in the city and their food consumption patterns, was conducted through mobile phone interviews with 350 residents in all three districts of Dar es Salaam.

“More meaningful patterns of change can be observed when turning to the type of food that was consumed during family meals, consumption of a number of food types has decreased since 2010,” the report says. “This has affected food availability for individual households.”

The culprit, according to the researchers, is unremitting inflation which reached 18 per cent in December last year. Should the situation remain unchanged, according to Dar es Salaam-based nutritionist Sylvia Imalike, it could have a devastating impact on children, who need sufficient protein to grow. Children who are underfed are likely to be stunted.

The ripple effect will be felt in the classrooms—where children risk becoming dull and slow learners. Adults could be forced into eating junk food, which is rich in carbohydrates and fat, leading to obesity and a host of non-communicable lifestyle diseases.

Ms Imalike added: “Apart from imminent peptic ulcers, their work performance and concentration will definitely be affected and the elderly will be weakened significantly.”

By Songa wa Songa, Daily Monitor

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