Malnutrition kills millions of children every year and robs millions more of the opportunity to reach their full potential. In 2012, world leaders committed to reaching six global nutrition targets by 2025. To meet these targets, the world will need to invest an estimated $70 billion on top of current funding in the next 10 years. This is achievable, but world leaders must act now to fulfill their promises. The analysis presented here demonstrates how all stakeholders can work together to close the resource gap and save millions of lives.
Stunting is the largely irreversible outcome of chronic undernutrition and affects one in four children under the age of five. Stunted children have weaker immune systems, making them more susceptible to death and disease and diminishing their cognitive capacity, which impacts their ability to learn in school and earn higher incomes later in life.
Research has shown that malnutrition often exists in an inter-generational cycle, and malnourished mothers are more than twice as likely to have stunted children as are well-nourished mothers.
The effects of stunting last a lifetime: impaired brain development, lower IQ, weakened immune systems, and greater risk of serious diseases like diabetes and cancer later in life.
Stunting is almost always irreversible but it can be prevented by improving nutrition for women and children in the first 1,000 days.
Globally, 50 million children under the age of five are wasted, and wasting accounts for 2 million child deaths every year. Wasting occurs when children lose weight rapidly because of diets which do not meet their nutritional needs. Wasted children are more likely to die of infectious diseases like diarrhea, pneumonia, and measles. Wasting also increases the risk of stunting, impaired cognitive development, and non-communicable diseases in adulthood.
Children become wasted when they lose weight rapidly, usually because of a combination of infection and insufficient dietary intake.
Severely wasted children are 11 times more likely to die than healthy children, as wasting increases the risk of death from infectious diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia and measles.
Wasting increases the risk of stunted growth, impaired cognitive development and non-communicable diseases in adulthood.
Anemia affects half a billion women of reproductive age worldwide, impairing their health and economic productivity. An indicator of poor nutrition, anemia is a condition in which the ability of the blood to transport oxygen around the body is impaired. In pregnant women, anemia can lead to maternal death and can have serious health consequences for infants, including stillbirth, prematurity, and low birth weight.
Maternal anemia is associated with illness and death of both the mother and baby, including increased risk of miscarriages, stillbirths, premature birth and low birth weight.
Anemia causes fatigue and makes women feel lethargic. It also impairs physical capacity and work performance.
Anemia diminishes the health and quality of life for millions of women, as well as the development and learning potential of their children.
Exclusive breastfeeding—defined as the practice of only giving an infant breast-milk for the first 6 months of life—is a cornerstone of child survival and child health. It boosts a child’s immune system, protects against diseases, increases intelligence, and promotes healthy growth. Exclusive breastfeeding has the single largest potential impact on child survival of any preventive intervention.
Exclusive breastfeeding gives babies everything they need for healthy growth and brain development so they can get the best start to life.
Exclusive breastfeeding protects children from respiratory infections, diarrheal disease, and other life-threatening illnesses.
Exclusive breastfeeding is shown to protect against obesity and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes
Other nutrition targets (not included in the analysis)
Assessment of the WHA nutrition targets on childhood overweight and low birthweight was not included because, at the time of this analysis, there were either insufficient data on the prevalence of the condition (low birthweight) or consensus on effective interventions to reach the goal (child overweight). See here for emerging recommendations on a package of interventions to address childhood overweight.