Coca Cola in a Baby’s Bottle: Health Horror Stories from Samoa
According to the World Health Organization, Samoa is the world’s fattest country. At least 75% of Samoans are obese and 40% suffer from Type 2 diabetes.
Cheap, processed, imported foods contribute to a diet that is high in fat, sugar and salt while low in nutrition. Samoans of all ages suffer from unhealthy eating, with only 60% of babies at 6 months of age exclusively breast feeding. Last week, I even saw a mother pouring Coca Cola into her baby’s bottle.
Rates of obesity and heart disease have skyrocketed as the traditional Samoan diet of Taro, breadfruit, fish and fruit has been replaced by white bread, rice, mutton flaps, tinned fish and soda.
The fattiest part of a sheep, mutton flaps have more fat per gram than a Mcdonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Most countries have banned mutton flaps as unsafe, but they remain incredibly popular here in Samoa.
In 2007, Samoa banned the import of another unhealthy yet popular meat, turkey tails. If you have never eaten a turkey tail,that is because they have been deemed a public health risk in most countries and must be cut off before a bird can be sold.
With 19% more fat than mutton flaps, turkey tails are a recipe for a heart attack. A recent article in the local Samoan newspaper called for the ban on turkey tails to be lifted as the prices of mutton flaps and fish has risen sharply in the last few years.
The majority of Kiva loans through the South Pacific Business Development Foundation go to help people either fish or plant vegetables. Greater access to fresh vegetables and fish is a major step towards a healthy diet. The Samoan government has recently started campaigns to increase nutritional awareness and encourage exercise, but more must be done to fight obesity.
Nate Walsh is a Kiva Fellow in Apia, Samoa. He is volunteering with the South Pacific Business Development Foundation (SPBD)