Food for Thought

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by Zubair Lone

Recently, the Global Nutrition Report 2017 was released at the Global Nutrition Summit in Milan, Italy. It acts as an independent report card on the state of world’s nutrition—globally, regionally, and country by country. The commissioning and development of the Global Nutrition Report (GNR) is guided by a Stakeholder Group comprising members of governments, donor organisations, civil society, multilateral organisations and the business sector.

The report, now in its fourth year, focuses on the progress made towards nutrition-related global commitments and identifies opportunities for action to end malnutrition in all its forms by 2030.

Malnutrition is one of the biggest challenges facing the global community which directly affects one in three people in multiple forms. According to World Health Organization (WHO), malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses, or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients.

The term malnutrition addresses 3 broad groups of conditions – Undernutrition, Micronutrient-related malnutrition and Overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases.

Undernutrition includes wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-for-age) and underweight (low weight-for-age). Micronutrient-related malnutrition includes a lack of important vitamins and minerals or even their excess in our diet.

The 2017 GNR is divided into six chapters covering: a transformative agenda for nutrition -for all and by everyone, the relationship between the Sustainable Development Goals and malnutrition; how to measure and assess progress; financing and malnutrition; reflections on the past progress against malnutrition. Each chapter includes a number of key findings and calls to action.

The report looked at 140 countries including India, found ‘significant burdens’ of three important forms of malnutrition used as an indicator of broader trends. These include childhood stunting (72 countries), anemia in women of reproductive age (125 countries), and overweight adult women (95 countries).

Latest GNR figures show that 155 million children under five (38 percent) are affected by stunting – children too short for their age due to lack of nutrients, suffering irreversible damage to brain capacity. About 52 million children under 5 (21 percent) are defined as ‘wasted’ or ‘severely wasted’ – meaning they do not weigh enough for their height.

Over half of women of reproductive age – 51 percent -suffer from anemia – a serious condition that can have long-term health impacts for mother and child. More than 22 percent of adult women are overweight, a rising concern as women are disproportionately affected by the global obesity epidemic, according to the report.
The report also found that 88 percent of countries studied face a serious burden of two or three forms of malnutrition.

Furthermore, 2 billion people around the globe lack key micronutrients like iron and vitamin A. The report also highlights that overweight and obesity are on the rise in almost every country, with two billion of the world’s seven billion people now overweight or obese and a less than one percent chance of meeting the global target of halting the rise in obesity and diabetes by 2025. In India, 16 percent of adult men and 22 percent of adult women are overweight.

Tackling malnutrition in all its forms will require multi-faceted actions across multiple sectors. In this context, the report provides a number of key recommendations/calls to action intended to accelerate action against malnutrition and support the achievement of nutrition targets and the SDGs. Particularly, the GNR 2017 calls for nutrition to be placed at the heart of efforts to end poverty, fight disease, raise educational standards and tackle climate change.

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