Every third child is malnourished, finds Global Nutrition Report 2018

We may be in the United Nations Decade of Nutrition but every country is affected by malnutrition, highlights the Global Nutrition Report 2018 released Thursday. About a third of the world’s children suffer some form of malnutrition.

According to the report, we have never been better equipped to fight malnutrition, yet the current burden is “unacceptably high”. Of 141 countries, 41 (28 per cent) are affected by all three forms of malnutrition—stunting among children, anaemia and obesity among women. A whopping 124 countries (88 per cent) suffers from at least two forms.

The Global Nutrition Report was conceived following the first Nutrition for Growth Initiative Summit (N4G) in 2013 as a mechanism for tracking the commitments made by 100 stakeholders spanning governments, aid donors, civil society, the UN and businesses.

Highlights of the report:

Global burden of malnutrition “remains unacceptably high and progress unacceptably slow”. Under-nutrition accounts for around 45% of deaths among children under five in low- and middle-income countries.

Overweight and obesity has led to around 4 million deaths and 120 million healthy years of life lost across the globe, with around 38.9% adults found to be overweight.

Among children under five years of age, 150.8 million are stunted, 50.5 million are wasted and 38.3 million are overweight; while 20 million babies are born underweight each year, it says.

The impact of malnutrition on global economy is close to US$3.5 trillion per year, with obesity alone costing US$500 billion per year.

A major section of the study looks at the quality, nutrient content and type of food consumed across the globe. The results suggest a disparity between developed and emerging markets, says the report.

The report says that regardless of wealth, school-age children, adolescents and adults are consuming too many refined grains, sugary foods and drinks, and not enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

India holds almost a third (31%) of the global burden for stunting, the prevalence of which differs from state to state. As per the UNICEF, stunting, or low height for age, is caused by long-term insufficient nutrient intake and frequent infections.

Stunting varies greatly from district to district (12.4% to 65.1%), with 239 of 604 districts accounting for stunting levels above 40%. The differences between districts were a result of multiple factors, including gender, education, economic status, health, hygiene, and other demographic factors.

India is the country with the largest number of children who are stunted at 46.6 million, followed by Nigeria (13.9 million) and Pakistan (10.7 million). The urban prevalence of stunting on average 19.2% compared with 26.8% in rural areas.

While wasting, or low weight for height, affects a greater proportion of rural children than urban. India again tops the list with the most number of wasted children at 25.5 million, followed by Nigeria (3.4 million) and Indonesia (3.3 million).

India is also among the countries with more than a million children who are overweight. As part of the report, a case study in Rajasthan found that key areas of infant and young child feeding and micronutrient supplementation were underfunded.

Way ahead- need of the hour- suggestions by the report:

·         Break down silos between malnutrition in all its forms.

·         Prioritise and invest in the data needed and capacity to use it.

·         Scale up financing for nutrition – diversify and innovate to build on past progress.

·         Galvanise action on healthy diets – engage across countries to address this universal problem.

·         Make and deliver better commitments to end malnutrition in all its forms – an ambitious, transformative approach will be required to meet global nutrition targets.

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