The 2018 Global Nutrition Report, an annual analysis on nutrition across the world, reveals that the global burden of malnutrition is unacceptably high and now affects every country in the world. Thirty of 41 countries hit by three forms of malnutrition - stunting among children, anemia in women of child-bearing age and excessive weight in women - are in Africa, it said.
This is despite the improvement made by India in reducing stunting since 2005-06.
The findings should be alarming for the policymakers because when India began the National Family Health Survey, its stunting and wasting among children were on a par with Thailand.
Stunting, or low height for age, is caused by long-term insufficient nutrition and frequent infections. "Of the three countries that are home to nearly half (47.2 per cent) of all stunted children, two are in Asia, with India having 46.6 million (31 per cent) and Pakistan having 10.7 million", the report said. Results showed that stunting varies greatly from district to district (12.4 per cent to 65.1 per cent), with 239 of 604 districts accounting for stunting levels above 40 per cent. India again tops the list with the most number of wasted children at 25.5 million, followed by Nigeria (3.4 million) and Indonesia (3.3 million). According to NFHS-4, percentage of wasted children under five years increased from 19.8 per cent in 2005-06 t0 21 per cent in 2015-16.
Children's diets (9 per cent), assets (7 per cent), open defecation (7 per cent) and household size (5 per cent) were also important factors.
The report attaches strong hope to curing malnutrition by making use of these advantages and following five simple steps: develop comprehensive programmes, prioritise and invest in the data needed and capacity to use it, scale up and diversify financing for nutrition, focus on healthy diets to drive better nutrition everywhere and improve the targets and commitments that are driving actors to achieve desirable goals. It is slightly more common among boys (6.9 per cent) than girls (6.1 per cent), the report highlighted.
"More than half of the world's children impacted by wasting [26.9 million] live in South Asia", said the report. The other nations are China, Indonesia, Egypt, US, Brazil and Pakistan.
In low- and middle-income countries, infants and young kids are consuming packaged snack foods such as soft drinks, juice, savoury snacks, sweet biscuits, cakes and candies on a regular basis, says the report.
Poor diets are among the top causes of ill health globally, accounting for almost one in five deaths, according to a study published on Thursday that called on governments and businesses to do more to improve eating habits.
"The figures call for immediate action. Overweight and obesity among adults are at record levels with 38.9 percent of adults overweight or obese, stretching from Africa to North America, and increasing among adolescents", the report says.
Moreover, women have a higher burden than men when it comes to certain forms of malnutrition: one third of all women of reproductive age have anaemia and women have a higher prevalence of obesity than men. Women and maternal health is considered crucial to tackle overall malnutrition because the seeds of child malnutrition are often sown in the womb. Most of the stunted children are in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra.