Page 9, 4th August 1939

4th August 1939
Page 9
Page 9, 4th August 1939 — Colonies Committee's Report

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Organisations: Colonies Committee


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Colonies Committee's Report


So the Colonial Empire is mostly a slum.

For three years a committee under the chairmanship of Earl de wdrr has examined the facts about nutrition in the Empire.

This is the judgment the committee has reached : " After studying all the leports submitted by Colonial Governments and all the other available material, we nave no doubt at all that there are few parts of the Colonial Empire (or indeed of any tropical country) where the diet of the majority of the population is at present anything like sufficient for optimum nutrition. Diets are frequently insuffieient in quantity and still more frequently insufficient in quality.

" This mnst result not only in the prevalence of specific deficiency diseases hut in a great deal of ill-health, lowered resistance to other diseases and a general impairment of well-being and efficiency. There is, in our minds, no doubt whatever that these conclusions are correct."

And the evidence assembled in the 356 pages of the committee's report which has just been published should leave no doubt in your mind, either. Here are some of the facts which the Report records.

Not Enough Meat and Milk

MALTA Infant mortality in 1S36 was 190.30 per thousand births. The year before it was 285,71 per thousand births. For purposes of comparison it may be remembered that England's average rate from 1931 to 1934 was 64 per thousand births. " The diet of a large section of the population is improperly balanced . . . but gross malnutrition is not a common feature." What malnutrition there is (specially prevalent among expectant and nursing mothers) is caused by " the low wages earned by a large section of the population coupled with ignorance regarding diet."

TANGANYIKA " It is generally agreed that the majority of population does not get enough meat and milk and that there is an annual period of food shortage between harvests . . . . A major problem is the tsetse fly menace which prevents the people in two-thirds of the territory (total area of territory is 374,085 square miles) from keeping domestic animals for milk and meat production." • ZANZIBAR '' To provide for clothes, house repairs, fishing tackle and other essential outgoings the rural native trades all his most valuable foodstuffs in the towns, buying for himself cheaper food."

Rice-Water for Babies

GAMBIA Infant mortality in Bathurst, the capital, was 369.7 per thousand births In 1936 •• The high infant mortality, the marked prevalence of dental caries and the frequent manifestations of vitamin A and D deficiency are clear evidence of dietary inadequacy."


" Certain sections of the community have a wholly adequate diet and as a result have splendid physique . . . . Meat is expensive and on the whole the people are meat starved."

Infant mortality is high. about 250 per thousand births.


" Early in life malnutrition begins. Nursing mothers have very little milk and young infants a diet of rice-water a.nd tea. Goats are sometimes killed for meat, but their milk is not used. Many people have never tasted cow's milk, butter, cheese, or eggs. Fish are not numerous and are difficult to obtain; several hours of dangerous fishing often produces no more than a few mackerel sold for sixpence. the purchase price of a little rice."

They are of very mixed origin— including Chinese and Japanese elements-the 4,000 islanders; and their main livelihood conies from the production of flax and of lace for tourists who come to the island.

Beriberi Death


"Natives live on a very poorlybalanced diet and are suffering from a serious lack of vitamins. . . . The problem of nutrition is made up of poverty, ignorance with consequent indifference, and agricultural conditions. Periodical droughts 'are an important factor in the situation." This African territory is more than five times the size la of England: its population is only 26,00 la of England: its population is only 26,00

ADEN " Seventy-five square miles of volcanic rock and sand " is Aden. It is " almost entirely urban " and cosmopolitan. All the chief items of diet are imported from Arabia, On the whole standard of health is high, though the diet of the labourer, who has no other resources than his wage, is frequently below actual requirements.


Beriberi-a disease akin to dropsyis prevalent. It caused 1,661 deaths out of a total of 34,635 in 1937. In the same year 2,365 infants of under one year died of enteritis. " Although food prices are comparatively low, average wages are also low and rentals are high."

No Meals After Wednesday


"The weekly wage of parents (paid on Saturdays) Is insufficient to feed the whole /amity for a week, many children have no regular meals after Wednesday each week and come to school hungry on Thursdays and Fridays. . . . The poor physique of the average frazOttrer, the very high incidence of dental caries, the prevalence of pelagra, the increasing prevalence Of tuberculosis, and the general low resistance to infectious disease, provide sufficient evidence that diets are seriously deficient."

Infant mortality on the island is about 198 per thousand births.

JAMAICA "Adverse economic conditions, poverty of the masses, low wages, unemployment, the over-large family, and the high percentage of illegitimacy (71 per cent. of all births) are the root causes of most of the malnutrition found.

"The average income of 53 per cent. of the employed population in 1935 fell helOw 25s. a week, and 71 per cent. earned an average of 14s. a. week. These are sums earned by the mate wage-earner responsible for an average of five persons."

Fijian Sanity

FIJI " The average Fijian is physically very well developed . . . Fiji is fertile and sparsely populated. Owing to the communal system of society there are no rich Fijians, but there is also no poverty. The Fijian is a landowner and under Native Regulations each adult male is required to plant and to keep in cultivation sufficient food crops to satisfy the requirements of himself and his dependants. All women are exempt from communal work in order that they may devote their energies to the care of their houses and children, and in many districts the husbands of pregnant women are temporarily exempt from work to enable them to provide adequately for the needs attendant upon child-birth."


Out of 183 persons examined in 1937, 140 were found to be in perfect health. Staple diet is milk, fish, eggs and vegetables. " A rising incidence of dental caries, pyorrhoea may be correlated with increasing frequency of visits made by ships bringing wheat flour, jam, sugar. tea and tinned foods as wellintentioned gifts to the island.

Shockheaded Cannibals In nearly all possessions much work is being done by propaganda to correct Ignorance about correct diet, but little is being done to raise wages or otherwise provide for increased or more discriminating food consumption, Partly owing to a lack of adequate grants to the Colonial administrations.

The example of a Bane social system given of all places by Fiji-inextricably Mixed up in everyone's head with nursery bloods about shockheaded cannibals-seems to have impressed ths members of the Committee under Earl de la Warr, for they say:

"We teou/d emphasise how disastrous front a nutritional point of view (as well as from many others) is the formation of large urban proletariats in backward communities."

In their suggestions for remedy of the malnutrition in the Empire, they emphasise among other excellent points that families should produce food for family needs, and that Colonial Governments should do all they can " to provide the landless classes with at any rats some land."

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