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To investigate the effects of currency devaluation on dietary change and nutritional vulnerability of poor households in two African capital cities.
A qualitative study based on 120 semistructured individual interviews and four focus group discussions in each city.
Dakar, Senegal (western Africa) and Brazzaville, Congo (central Africa).
All of the subjects were randomly selected women from modest or poor households, who spoke the local common language and were responsible for household meal preparation. Only those likely to restrict the dynamic of focus group discussions (because of language, age or education) were excluded.
Changes were found in meal preparation characteristics (frequency, sharing pattern) and meal composition. There was frequent depletion of fat and vegetable contents in meals, frequent elimination of desserts and even the elimination of one daily meal. These changes specifically affected economically disadvantaged and socially isolated households, and those headed by women. Other changes were the reduction in the size of consumption units and the development of neighbourhood-specific street food – which has been a growing trend in Brazzaville since the outset of the economic crisis but is more recent in Dakar.
If lasting, these changes pose a dual health risk, i.e. reducing dietary diversity and altering the bacteriological quality of prepared meals. In addition, attempts to reduce the consumption units were found to upset community ties that bind these societies.
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