‘Burden of malnutrition unacceptably high despite world being better equipped to fight it’
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 report finds 22.2 per cent, or 150.8 million, children (those up to five years) to be stunted; 7.5 per cent (50.5 million) to be wasted and 5.6 per cent (38.3 million) to be overweight.
There has been a significant decrease in stunting from 32.6 per cent a year ago, but the report finds “there are significant disparities in progress at the subnational level”. While it has decreased to 9.6 per cent among Latin American and Carribean children, the proportion remains high in Asia (23.2 per cent) and in Africa (30.3 per cent). A rise in population, however, meant an increase in absolute numbers in Africa.
The report terms progress in addressing underweight and anaemia among women as “extremely slow”. Anaemia, in fact, has risen slightly from the turn of the century to 32.8 per cent. There was a small decline in the proportion of underweight women—9.7 per cent (among those aged 20-49 years) and 5.7 per cent (15-19).
Instances of being overweight (those with a body mass index of 25 and above) and obese (BMI of 30 and above) are on the rise. Obesity is more common among women (15.1 per cent) than men (11.1 per cent).
The situation in Africa remains particularly alarming, with 30 countries suffering from all forms of malnutrition. The continent has 54 UN-recognised countries. Among the children there, 15.95 million children there were affected by wasting and stunting, “which increases the risk of child mortality”, the report points out. Stunting and overweight affects 8.23 million children there.
In India, some progress is visible only against stunting while the data could not be gauged for child obesity and exclusive breastfeeding. The situation has either worsened or remains the same for all other global nutrition targets viz, wasting (under five years), anaemia, obesity and diabetes.
The report also points out that “in situations of crises arising from conflict, fragility, violence and environmental change there is an urgent need to treat and prevent multiple burdens of malnutrition while also building nutrition resilience to what are often protracted crises.”
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