Here’s something to put on your reading list this year: the Global Nutrition Report (GNR). As the first comprehensive narrative of nutrition progress for all 193 United Nations member states, the GNR is packed with surprising facts, troves of data and ambitious recommendations. More than a technical report filled with statistics, it is also a call to action and a tool for accountability for governments and organizations that have recently made strong commitments to reducing malnutrition.
The authors, an Independent Expert Group led by Lawrence Haddad, Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, reframe malnutrition as a universal challenge integral to the success of sustainable development. UNICEF provided data and was part of the team that wrote the report.
Some choice highlights from the report:
1. Malnutrition affects all countries, regardless of income
All 122 countries collecting nutrition data, except two, experience at least one form of malnutrition, including stunting, anemia, or adult overweight. The two outlier countries, China and the Republic of Korea, missed the cut-off for anemia by a razor-thin margin.
2. And it’s complicated
Most countries are now facing multiple forms of malnutrition simultaneously. Undernutrition and diet-related diseases like hypertension, diabetes and heart disease are often found under one roof. This is the “new normal.”
3. Well-nourished people fuel sustainable development
Malnutrition is a major hindrance to sustainable development, resulting in 11% reduction of gross national product from loss of life, wages and effective learning. This fact underscores the importance of strongly embedding nutrition targets into the Sustainable Development Goals to be adopted in 2015.
4. Nutrition investments: big bang for your buck, rupee or peso
Wherever you are, investing in nutrition is a good deal. For example, for every dollar, rupee or peso invested in nutrition, the median return will be more than 16. This return is on par with other investments such as roads, health, and irrigation.
5. Progress is slow…
The globe is not on course to meeting the targets and indicators for reducing malnutrition established in 2012 by the World Health Assembly (WHA). Global targets include reduction of under-5 wasting, overweight and stunting, and anemia in women of reproductive age. While there has been some success in reducing rates of stunting, it’s not enough to meet the global targets.
6. …But there are bright spots
Viewed on a country-by-country basis, progress is being made towards the WHA targets. Of the 99 countries with sufficient data to make such an assessment, 68 are on course for at least one of the WHA global targets. For example, in India the state of Maharashtra made dramatic progress on under-5 stunting, reducing it from 36.5% to 24% in only seven years. Improvements like this need to be understood and shared with the community so they can be replicated.
Following its launch at the Second International Conference on Nutrition in Rome in November, Lawrence Haddad took the GNR on the road, including a stop in New York City at UNICEF headquarters on Dec. 8 for a roundtable discussion co-hosted by Columbia University. As launch activities continue into early 2015, Haddad and collaborators have already begun working on the next iteration of the report, slated for late 2015.
You can submit your comments and suggestions for the next report here. | Read the full 2014 report here.
Leslie Engel has been supporting UNICEF around the Global Nutrition Report launch.