The global state of malnutrition is getting worse, according to report released on Wednesday by the World Health Organization, and countries are years behind meeting targets needed to solve the problem. Despite efforts by the…
The global state of malnutrition is getting worse, according to report released on Wednesday by the World Health Organization, and countries are years behind meeting targets needed to solve the problem.
Despite efforts by the international community to curb malnutrition, statistics show that lack of proper nutrition still affects millions of children and adults worldwide.
“Of the 141 countries analyzed, 88 percent (124 countries) experience more than one form of malnutrition,” say the authors of the 2018 Global Nutrition Report, the study released by WHO, the U.N.’s international public health agency.
More than 150.8 million children suffer from stunted growth, a condition caused by poor nutrition. About 38 million children suffer from acute malnutrition and just as many are overweight and obese, the report shows. In addition, about 50 million children under the age of 5 suffer from acute malnutrition, about 38 million are overweight and about 20 million newborn babies are underweight.
“Wasting (or acute malnutrition) still affects 50.5 million children under 5, with more than half of the world’s wasted children, 26.9 million, living in South Asia,” say the authors of the report. “Of the 38.3 million children who are overweight, 5.4 million and 4.8 million are in South and East Asia , respectively — 26.6 percent of the total.”
It is not unusual for children to also suffer from multiple types of malnutrition at the same time. About 3.5 percent of those under 5 years of age — about 16 million children worldwide — are both stunted and severely underweight. About 1.9 percent of all those under the age of 5 — about 8.2 million children — are both stunted and overweight.
Officials have prioritized addressing stunted growth in the fight against malnutrition. Globally, rates of stunted growth in children younger than age 5 have steadily declined, from 32.6 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2017.
The change has been even more dramatic in some areas. Stunting in Nepal declined from 57.1 percent in 2000 to 36 percent in 2017, the report found; in Lesotho the rate dropped from 52.7 percent to 33.4 percent. Regionally, in Asia the rate declined from 38.1 percent to 23.2 percent, and in Latin America and the Caribbean from 16.9 percent to 9.6 percent. In Africa the percentage of stunted children decreased from 38.2 percent to 30.3 percent, though due to population growth the actual number of stunted children in Africa increased during that time, from 50.6 million to 59 million.
“Malnutrition is far more diverse and complex than originally believed; the challenges faced by each country demonstrate this complexity,” the report states. “For example, many African and South Asian countries continue to suffer from multiple forms of malnutrition, including undernutrition, significant micronutrient deficiencies and rising levels of obesity. While Japan is overcoming undernutrition and striving to increase longevity by addressing the key issues, it also faces new challenges in ensuring its citizens lead healthier lives.”
Malnutrition problems are also on the rise for adults. According to the report, about 2 billion adults worldwide are overweight, out of which about 680 million are obese.