Study: Developing World Has 5% Chance Of Meeting UN Child Hunger Target
By Rebecca Lim | Health & Medicine
July 9, 2012
Insufficient progress has been made on halving the number of children who suffer from hunger, says a new Lancet study.
AsianScientist (Jul. 9, 2012) – Insufficient progress has been made on halving the number of children who suffer from hunger, says a new Lancet study.
A recent systematic analysis published recently in The Lancet has found that developing countries are unlikely to meet the United Nations’ (UN) target of halving the proportion of children who suffer from hunger by 2015 compared with 1990 levels.
The study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, found that while the nutritional status of children under five has improved overall since 1985, one in five infants and children in developing countries is still moderately or severely underweight.
This amounts to an estimated 110 million children worldwide with another 148 million mildly underweight.
This new analysis, led by Professor Majid Ezzati from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, estimates that the developing world as a whole has less than a five percent chance of meeting this target which the UN set as part of its Millennium Development Goals.
Researchers from Imperial College London, the World Health Organization, and universities in the United States assessed nutritional status in children using scores based on their height and weight relative to their age, called height-for-age and weight-for-age Z scores (HAZ and WAZ).
This data was compiled from national surveys and other sources and statistical methods used to estimate the average Z scores and the prevalence of undernutrition (defined as insufficient food intake and absorption) for entire countries.
The study found that the proportion of children classed as moderately to severely underweight fell from 30.1 percent to 19.4 percent between 1985 and 2011, while the prevalence of moderate to severe stunting declined from 47.2 percent to 29.9 percent.
Notably, progress has been uneven between regions, with Asia and Latin America making the strongest improvements and sub-Saharan Africa falling behind.
South Asia, the region with the worst nutritional status in 1985, has improved considerably. However, undernutrition is still a major issue as the region is still home to about one half of the world’s underweight children, mostly in India.
Southeast Asia together with Southern and Tropical Latin America also demonstrated the largest height and weight improvement, with the biggest improvement in children’s height occurring in China and Vietnam.
This new study includes estimates of all levels of malnutrition, unlike previous analyses, which excluded children who were mildly malnourished. The statistics suggest that in most countries, the improvements are due to population-wide improvements in nutrition, rather than interventions targeting high-risk children.
“Our analysis shows that the developing world as a whole has made considerable progress towards reducing child malnutrition, but there are still far too many children who don’t receive sufficient nutritious foods or who lose nutrients due to repeated sickness. Severe challenges lie ahead,” said Professor Majid Ezzati.
“There is evidence that child nutrition is best improved through equitable economic growth, investment in policies that help smallholder farmers and increase agricultural productivity, and primary care and food programs targeted at the poor. We mustn’t allow the global economic crisis and rising food prices to cause inequalities to increase, or cut back on investments in nutrition and healthcare.”
The article can be found at: Stevens GA et al. (2012) Trends in mild, moderate, and severe stunting and underweight, and progress towards MDG 1 in 141 developing countries: a systematic analysis of population representative data.
Source: Imperial College UK; Photo: Rajesh_India/Flickr.
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