Malnutrition threatens 120 UN member nations, says global report

India performs well on under-5 stunting, but sanitation continues to be the biggest stumbling block

 
By Jemima Rohekar
Last Updated: Monday 17 August 2015

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Global Nutrition Report 2014, the first annual report that studies the progress made by 193 member countries of the United Nations on their nutrition status, was released on Thursday. The report says that sustainable development depends on the country’s ability to ensure nutrition for its adults, women of childbearing age and children. Malnutrition leads to a loss of 11 per cent of gross national product on account of deaths due to malnutrition, less learning in schools, less earning at the workplace and days lost to illness, according to the report.

Key findings in the report
 
  • For countries with comparable data, 120 of 122 countries suffer from at least one form of malnutrition, such as under-5 stunting, anaemia among women of reproductive age (WRA) or adult overweight.
  • 24 of the 122 countries experience all three forms of malnutrition.
  • 68 countries are on course to moving towards at least one World Health Assembly (WHA) target.
  • 31 countries are not on course for any of the WHA targets.
  • Between 2010 and 2012, funding from international donors to nutrition programmes increased by 20 per cent to $1.52 billion.
  • This funding, however, was just over one per cent of overall official development assistance spending.



“Almost all countries suffer from high levels of malnutrition. Low-income countries do not have a monopoly on malnutrition problems and high-income countries do not have a monopoly on nutrition solutions,” says the report.

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Status of nutrition in India

The report says that the country is making faster improvements in WHA indicators than currently assumed. Preliminary data suggests that number of stunted children under 5 has already decreased by more than 10 million.

It also highlights the case of Maharashtra which managed to reduce child stunting from 36.6 to 24 per cent in only seven years. It attributes this performance to a combination of nutrition-specific interventions, improved access to food and education and reductions in poverty and fertility.

The report compares the 2013-14 Rapid Survey on Children, a national survey based on data being collected by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, with the WHO’s global database on malnutrition of 2005-06. It finds that India has exceeded its WHA target for breastfeeding for 2025 by four per cent. If the preliminary numbers hold, the report estimates that India will have far surpassed its WHA exclusive breastfeeding target by 2025.

India is among the 31 countries that are on course towards reducing the number of overweight children under 5.

At the same time, India is among the 21 countries with the lowest coverage rate for its iron-folic acid supplementation programme. India, besides Bangladesh, has a low geographical coverage rate for its programme to treat severe acute malnutrition. Sanitation is the biggest constraint that makes India vulnerable to undernutrition, according to other data mentioned in the report.

Recommendations of the report
 
  • Different stakeholders in each country must work together to generate substantial improvements in nutrition status at the national level.
  • Countries must make significant investments in human infrastructure as the resulting benefits are highly competitive with, if not more than, those from investments in road and irrigation.
  • Countries must increase coverage of their nutrition programmes by scaling up their financial, human and organisational capacity.
  • The percentage of nutrition-sensitive expenditure must increase in agriculture, social protection, education and women’s empowerment programmes, among others.
  • Countries must strengthen their accountability in nutrition by ensuring that nutrition indicators are more thoroughly embedded into Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, making changes in laws and policies to encourage appropriate nutritional practices and maintaining good quality data to help plan and track interventions to improve nutritional status.

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