The State of the World’s Children 2019

The 2019 edition of The State of the World’s Children (SOWC), prepared by the UNICEF, examines the issue of children, food and nutrition, providing a fresh perspective on a rapidly evolving challenge.

Despite progress in the past two decades, one third of children under age 5 are malnourished – stunted, wasted or overweight – while two thirds are at risk of malnutrition and hidden hunger because of the poor quality of their diets. At the center of this challenge is a broken food system that fails to provide children with the diets they need to grow healthy. This report also provides new data and analyses of malnutrition in the 21st century and outlines recommendations to put children’s rights at the heart of food systems.

How the triple burden of malnutrition harms children, adolescents and women

Undernutrition: stunting and wasting

  • Poor growth, infection and death
  • Poor cognition, school-readiness and school performance
  • Poor earning potential later in life

Hidden hunger: deficiencies in micronutrients

  • Poor growth and development
  • Poor immunity and tissue development
  • Poor health and risk of death

Overweight (including obesity)

  • Short-term: cardiovascular problems, infections and poor self-esteem
  • Long-term: obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders

Undernutrition: stunting and underweight

  • Perinatal complications
  • Prematurity and low birth weight
  • Chronic diseases for child in later life

Key Messages

  • At least 1 in 3 children under 5 is undernourished or overweight and 1 in 2 suffers from hidden hunger, undermining the capacity of millions of children to grow and develop to their full potential.
  • The triple burden of malnutrition – undernutrition, hidden hunger and overweight – threatens the survival, growth and development of children, young people, economies and nations.
  • The triple burden of malnutrition is driven by the poor quality of children’s diets: 2 in 3 children are not fed the minimum recommended diverse diet for healthy growth and development.
  • Globalization, urbanization, inequities, humanitarian crises and climate shocks are driving unprecedented negative changes in the nutrition situation of children around the world.
  • Improving children’s nutrition requires food systems to deliver nutritious, safe, affordable and sustainable diets for all children.
  • Food environments are crucial. When healthy options are affordable, convenient and desirable, children and families make better food choices.
  • Investing in nutrition for children and young people is a cornerstone investment if the world is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Agenda to Put Children’s Nutrition Rights First

The State of the World’s Children 2019 report concludes with the following Agenda to Put Children’s Nutrition Rights First:

  1. Empower families, children and young people to demand nutritious food.
  2. Drive food suppliers to do the right thing for children.
  3. Build healthy food environments for all children.
  4. Mobilize supportive systems – health, water and sanitation, education and social protection – to scale up nutrition results for all children.
  5. Collect, analyse and use good-quality data and evidence regularly to guide action and track progress.

What does the Report Say About India?

  • 35% of Indian children suffer from stunting due to lack of nutrition, 17% suffer from wasting, 33% are underweight and 2% are overweight.
  • Among countries in South Asia, India fares the worst (54%) on prevalence of children under five who are either stunted, wasted or overweight.
  • India also has the highest burden of deaths among children under five per year, with over 8 lakh deaths in 2018. It is followed by Nigeria, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, at 8.6 lakh, 4.09 lakh and 2.96 lakh deaths per year, respectively.

Find Full Report Here.

Additional Readings

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