The global burden of malnutrition at a glance
The world has made some progress towards achieving global nutrition targets. However, this progress is far too slow and malnutrition persists at high levels.
Few countries are on course to meet any of the targets for maternal, infant and young child nutrition (MIYCN). The latest available data shows that no country is on course to reduce the prevalence of anaemia among women of reproductive age, with one in three (32.8%) women aged 15 to 49 years affected, particularly those who are pregnant. Globally, it is estimated that 14.6% of infants have a low weight at birth, with only 11 countries on course to meet the low birthweight target. Some progress has been made towards achieving the exclusive breastfeeding target, with 32 countries on course and 44.0% of infants aged 0 to 5 months worldwide exclusively breastfed. Thirty countries are on course to meet the stunting target and 49 countries are on course to meet the wasting target, yet 21.3% of children under 5 years of age are still affected by stunting and 6.9% by wasting. Worldwide, 53 countries are on course to prevent an increase in the prevalence of overweight among children under 5 years of age, which currently affects 5.6% of children.
Very few countries around the world are on course to meet the targets for diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs). No country is on course to halt the rise of obesity, with 15.1% of adult (aged 18 years or over) women and 11.1% of adult men living with obesity globally. At the same time, diabetes is estimated to affect 7.9% of adult women and 9.0% of adult men, with very few countries on course to prevent these numbers from increasing.
The Global Nutrition Report brings together the latest data on diet, the burden of malnutrition, nutrition strategies and financing and social determinants of nutrition to comprehensively assess the state of global nutrition.
Progress towards the global nutrition targets
49 Some progress
138 No progress or worsening
7 No data
Low birth weight
12 On course
49 Some progress
85 No progress or worsening
48 No data
32 On course
23 Some progress
26 No progress or worsening
113 No data
30 On course
38 Some progress
17 No progress or worsening
109 No data
49 On course
19 Some progress
23 No progress or worsening
103 No data
53 On course
31 No progress or worsening
110 No data
Adult female obesity
190 No progress or worsening
4 No data
Adult male obesity
190 No progress or worsening
4 No data
Adult female diabetes
26 On course
164 No progress or worsening
4 No data
Adult male diabetes
8 On course
182 No progress or worsening
4 No data
Source: WHO Global Health Observatory 2017; UNICEF/WHO low birthweight estimates, 2019; UNICEF global databases Infant and Young Child Feeding, 2020; UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates Expanded Database: Stunting, Wasting and Overweight (July 2020, New York); NCD Risk Factor Collaboration 2016-2017.
Notes: Progress towards the maternal, infant and young child nutrition (MIYCN) and diet-related non-communicable disease (NCD) global nutrition targets is classified as ‘on course’ if the target is met, ‘some progress' or ‘no progress or worsening’. MIYCN targets include anaemia among women of reproductive age (WRA, 15–49 years), infants with low birthweight, exclusive breastfeeding among infants under 6 months of age, and stunting, wasting and overweight in children under 5 years of age. NCD targets include adult obesity and diabetes; raised blood pressure and salt intake are not presented due to lack of country-level data. Obesity and diabetes are based on age-standardised modelled estimates for adults aged 18 years and older, using the WHO standard population; they are reported by sex due to limitations in data availability. Anaemia and low birthweight are also based on modelled estimates. The specific targets set are: 50% reduction of WRA anaemia, 30% reduction in low birthweight, increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months up to at least 50%, 40% reduction of under-5 stunting, reduce and maintain under-5 wasting to less than 5%, no increase in under-5 overweight; and halt the rise in obesity and diabetes prevalence. The methodologies for tracking progress differ across targets. See Methodology for more information on the indicators.
Infant and young child feeding
Prevalence of infant and young child feeding indicators
Source: UNICEF global databases: Infant and Young Child Feeding (July 2020, New York). Available at: http://data.unicef.org/nutrition/iycf. Accessed 30 November 2020.
Notes: Prevalence (%) estimates are presented for infants and young children aged 0–23 months (age varies by indicator). The number of countries (not shown) varies by indicator due to differences in available surveys and so inferences may be affected. See Methodology for more information on the indicators.
Dietary intakes of key foods and nutrients in adults aged 25 years and over
Source: Global Burden of Disease, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 2020.
Notes: Intakes are reported in grams per day (g/d) for all dietary factors, except for omega 3 fatty acids (milligrams per day; mg/d) and polyunsaturated, saturated and trans fatty acids (percentage of daily energy intake; %E). Intakes are based on modelled estimates for adults aged 25 years and older. The dietary factors have been selected as those diet components that have a statistically significant relationship with at least one disease endpoint that can be generalisable to all populations. Protective dietary factors include fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, milk, fibre, polyunsaturated fat, omega 3 fatty acids and calcium. Harmful dietary factors include red meats, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fat and sodium. The theoretical minimum risk of exposure level (TMREL) represents the optimal dietary intake that minimises risk from all causes of deaths combined. For protective dietary factors, risk is assessed for intakes below the TMREL; intakes above the TMREL do not further reduce the risk. For all harmful dietary factors, except sodium, TMREL is set to zero, hence risk is assessed for intakes above the TMREL; for sodium, intakes below the TMREL provide no additional health benefit. Country income-level categories are based on the World Bank 2018 classification of countries into low-, lower-middle, upper-middle, and high-income. See Methodology for more information on the indicators.
Nutrition strategies and financing
National nutrition policies
Implemented national food and NCD policies
- Food-based dietary guidelines
- Legislation for mandatory salt iodisation
- Sugar-sweetened beverage tax
- Policy to reduce salt/sodium consumption
- Policy to limit saturated fatty acid intake
- Policy to eliminate industrially produced trans fatty acids
- Policy to reduce the impact of marketing of foods and beverages high in saturated fats, trans fatty acids, free sugars, or salt on children
- Operational policy, strategy, or action plan to reduce unhealthy diet related to non-communicable diseases
- Operational, multisectoral policy, strategy or action plan for non-communicable diseases
- Operational policy, strategy or action plan for diabetes
Source: Global Fortification Data Exchange, 2019. Available at: https://fortificationdata.org/interactive-map-fortification-legislation. Accessed 30 November 2020; WHO Country Capacity Survey, 2017; WHO Global Nutrition Policy Review, 2016–2017; WHO Global database on the Implementation of Nutrition Action (GINA); World Cancer Research Fund International NOURISHING database; FAO 2020. Available at: http://www.fao.org/nutrition/education/food- based-dietary-guidelines/en. Accessed 30 November 2020; WHO Global Health Observatory, 2020. Available at: https://apps.who.int/gho/data/view.main.2473. Accessed 30 November 2020.
Notes: Number of countries with food-based dietary guidelines in 2018, sugar-sweetened beverage tax in 2017 and all other policies in 2019. Policy is defined as a specific official decision or set of decisions designed to carry out a course of action endorsed by a political body, including a set of goals, priorities and main directions for attaining these goals, including legislation and product reformulation mandates. Strategy is defined as a long-term plan designed to achieve a particular goal. Action plan is defined as a scheme or course of action, which may correspond to a policy or strategy, with defined activities indicating who does what, when, how and with what resources to accomplish an objective. ‘Operational’ describes a policy, strategy or plan of action being used and implemented in the country, with resources and funding available to implement it. ‘Multisectoral’ applies to a policy, strategy or plan of action that involves different sectors (e.g., health, agriculture, education, finance). See Methodology for more information on the indicators.
National policy targets
Inclusion of targets related to the global nutrition targets in national policies
- Reduce anaemia among women
- Reduce number of infants born with low birth weight
- Increase prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding in infants 0–5 months
- Reduce child stunting
- Reduce child wasting
- Reduce child overweight
- Reduce adolescent and adult overweight
- Reduce salt/sodium intake
- Reduce raised blood pressure prevalence
- Reduce blood sugar levels/diabetes prevalence
- Multisectoral comprehensive nutrition plan
Source: WHO GINA, 2nd Global Nutrition Policy Review, 2016–2017.
Notes: Number of countries with target included in national policies in 2017. Any national government-implemented policy, strategy or plan relevant to improving nutrition and promoting healthy diet was considered for 194 countries. Legislation, codes, regulations, protocols and guidelines, as well as non-governmental policies, were excluded. See Methodology for more information on the indicators.
Nutrition intervention coverage
Population coverage of key supplementation and fortification interventionsData is only available at the country level
Official development assistance (ODA)
Allocation of ODA for nutrition
Source: Development Initiatives based on OECD DAC CRS, 2019.
Notes: Gross official development assistance (ODA) received or disbursed for basic nutrition (CRS code: 12240) reported in US$ millions (constant 2018 prices) and as percentage (%) of the total ODA received/disbursed. Estimates include ODA grants and loans, but excludes other official flows and private grants. See Methodology for more information on the indicators.