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Joint child malnutrition estimates 2020 edition, levels and trends

  |   SUN UN Network

The UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank inter-agency team update the joint global and regional estimates of malnutrition among children under 5 years of age each year. These estimates of prevalence and numbers affected for child stunting, overweight, wasting and severe wasting are derived for the global population as well as by regional groupings of United Nations (UN) regions and sub-regions, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), UNICEF, WHO and World Bank regions, as well as World Bank country-income group classifications. The key findings report of the 2020 edition presents estimates from 2000-2019.

In 2019, there were 144 million stunted children, 47 million wasted children and 38 million overweight children. Global progress in stunting has been steady, but not fast enough to reach targets. Africa is the only region where the number of stunted children has risen. Meanwhile, the number of wasted and overweight children worldwide has seen no significant progress.  These estimates suggest that we are still far from a world without malnutrition and that current efforts need to be scaled up if the WHA and SDG nutrition targets are to be met.

Children affected from all forms of malnutrition

Stunting is the devastating result of poor nutrition in-utero and early childhood. Children suffering from stunting may never attain their full possible height and their brains may never develop to their full cognitive potential. Globally, 144.0 million children under 5 suffer from stunting. These children begin their lives at a marked disadvantage: they face learning diffi culties in school, earn less as adults, and face barriers to participation in their communities.

Wasting in children is the life-threatening result of poor nutrient intake and/or disease. Children suffering from wasting have weakened immunity, are susceptible to long term developmental delays, and face an increased risk of death, particularly when wasting is severe. These children require urgent feeding, treatment and care to survive. In 2019, 47.0 million children under 5 were wasted of which 14.3 million were severely wasted.

There is also an emerging face of malnutrition: childhood overweight and obesity. There are now 38.3 million overweight children globally, an increase of 8 million since 2000. The emergence of overweight and obesity has been shaped, at least in part, by industry marketing and greater access to processed foods, along with lower levels of physical activity.

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