Nutrition crisis in India and around the world threatens human development; demands pressing response – Global Nutrition Report 2017
- Global Nutrition Report 2017 finds significant burden of malnutrition in India and in all 140 countries studied
- Childhood stunting, anaemia in women of reproductive age and overweight adult women are ‘significant burdens’ in all 140 countries studied, including India
Mumbai, November 6, 2017: – India faces a serious nutrition-related challenge, stemming from both undernutrition and obesity, the authors of The Global Nutrition Report 2017 said today.
In all 140 countries studied, including India, the report found ‘significant burdens’ of three important forms of malnutrition used as an indicator of broader trends: 1) childhood stunting, children too short for their age due to lack of nutrients, suffering irreversible damage to brain capacity, 2) anaemia in women of reproductive age, a serious condition that can have long term health impacts for mother and child, and 3) overweight adult women, a rising concern as women are disproportionately affected by the global obesity epidemic.
In India, latest figures show that 38% of children under five are affected by stunting and 21% of under 5s are defined as ‘wasted’ or ‘severely wasted’, meaning they do not weigh enough for their height. Over half of women of reproductive age (51%) suffer from anaemia; and more than one in five (22%) of adult women are overweight. While the country has shown some progress in addressing under-5 stunting, it has made no progress or presents worse outcomes in the percentage of reproductive-age women with anaemia, and is off course in terms of reaching targets for reducing adult obesity and diabetes.
“India’s government is recognizing that the country cannot afford inaction on nutrition but the road ahead is going to be long. The Global Nutrition Report highlights that the double burden of undernutrition and obesity needs to be tackled as part of India’s national nutrition strategy. For undernutrition, especially, major efforts are needed to close the inequality gap” said Purnima Menon, independent expert group on the Global Nutrition Report, and Senior Research Fellow in the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)’s South Asia Office in New Delhi.
On an international level, nutrition is recognised as key in enabling sustainable development. Corinna Hawkes, Co-Chair of the Global Nutrition Report’s Independent Expert Group and Director of the Centre for Food Policy at City, University London, commented: “We will not achieve any of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) by the 2030 deadline unless there is a critical step change in our response to malnutrition in all its forms. Equally, we need action throughout the goals to tackle the many causes of malnutrition.”
The Global Nutrition Report 2017 calls for nutrition to be placed at the heart of efforts to end poverty, fight disease, raise educational standards and tackle climate change.
“We know that a well-nourished child is one third more likely to escape poverty,” said Jessica Fanzo, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Global Food and Agriculture Policy & Ethics at Johns Hopkins University and Global Nutrition Report Co-Chair. “They will learn better in school, be healthier and grow into productive contributors to their economies. Good nutrition provides the brainpower, the ‘grey matter infrastructure’ to build the economies of the future.”
The report found the vast majority (88%) of countries studied face a serious burden of two or three forms of malnutrition. It highlights the damaging impact this burden is having on broader global development efforts. The report found that overweight and obesity are on the rise in almost every country, with 2 billion of the world’s 7 billion people now overweight or obese and a less than 1 per cent chance of meeting the global target of halting the rise in obesity and diabetes by 2025. In India, 16% of adult men and 22% of adult women are overweight.
Rates of undernutrition in children are decreasing globally, the report said, with recent gains in some countries. But global progress is not fast enough to meet internationally agreed nutrition goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target 2.2 to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030. According to the report, 155 million under-fives are stunted; and 52 million children worldwide are defined as wasted, meaning they do not weigh enough for their height.
Rising rates of anaemia in women of reproductive age are also cited as a concern with over half of women in India and almost one in three women affected worldwide and no country on track to meet global targets.
“Historically, maternal anaemia and child undernutrition have been seen as separate problems to obesity and non-communicable diseases,” said Ms Fanzo. “The reality is they are intimately connected and driven by inequalities everywhere in the world. That’s why governments and their partners need to tackle them holistically, not as distinct problems.”
Donor funding for nutrition rose by just two per cent in 2015, to US$867 million, representing a slight fall in the overall percentage of global aid. The report says funding needs to be ‘turbo charged’ and calls for a tripling of global investments in nutrition, to $70bn over 10 years to tackle childhood stunting, wasting and anaemia and to increase breastfeeding rates. Crucially, donors are only spending 0.01% of official development assistance on diet-related Non-Communicable Diseases, a ‘disturbingly low’ level.
To help address the global crisis of malnutrition, the Global Nutrition Summit 2017 held in Milan, Italy, has galvanized billions of dollars in new commitments in order to reach nutrition targets. This includes a pledge of US$50 million over 5 years by Indian public health philanthropy Tata Trusts.
The report found there is a critical need for better data on nutrition – many countries don’t have enough data to track the nutrition targets they signed up to and to identify who is being left behind.