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The burden of malnutrition at a glance
In the Southern Asia subregion, there has been slight progress towards achieving global nutrition targets. The global target for overweight among children under 5 years of age has seven countries on course to meet it, exclusive breastfeeding among infants aged 0 to 5 months has five countries on course, while stunting among children under 5 years of age has three countries on course. However, not a single country in the subregion is on course to meet the targets for wasting among children under 5 years of age, anaemia in women of reproductive age (aged 15 to 49 years), low birth weight, diabetes among men, diabetes among women, obesity among men, and obesity among women. Five countries in the subregion have insufficient data to comprehensively assess their progress towards these global targets.
The latest data shows that anaemia affects an estimated 48.4% of women of reproductive age. Some 26.4% of infants have a low weight at birth in the Southern Asia subregion. The estimated average prevalence of infants aged 0 to 5 months who are exclusively breastfed is 57.2%, which is significantly higher than the global average of 44.0%. The Southern Asia subregion experiences a malnutrition burden among children aged under 5 years. The average prevalence of overweight is 2.5% - the lowest compared to other subregions in Asia with sufficient data. The prevalence of stunting is 30.7%, which is higher than the global average of 22.0%. The Southern Asia subregion's prevalence of wasting is 14.1%, which is also higher than the global average of 6.7%.
The Southern Asia subregion's adult population also faces a malnutrition burden: an average of 11.1% of adult (aged 18 and over) men live with diabetes, compared to 10.1% of women. Meanwhile, 8.4% of women and 4.8% of men live with obesity.
Progress towards the global nutrition targets
3 On course
5 Some progress
1 No progress or worsening
9 No progress or worsening
Low birth weight
5 Some progress
4 No data
7 On course
2 Off course
5 On course
2 Some progress
1 No progress or worsening
1 No data
3 Some progress
4 No progress or worsening
2 No data
Sodium intake, women and men
9 Off course
Raised blood pressure, women
1 On course
8 Off course
Raised blood pressure, men
9 Off course
9 Off course
9 Off course
9 Off course
9 Off course
Source: WHO. Global Health Observatory Data Repository/World Health Statistics. Available at: https://www.who.int/data/gho/data/indicators. Accessed 2 September 2021; UNICEF/WHO. Low birthweight estimates; published online 2019. Available at: https://data.unicef.org/topic/nutrition/low-birthweight. Accessed 24 August 2021; UNICEF. Global databases: Infant and young child feeding; published online July 2020. Available at: http://data.unicef.org/nutrition/iycf. Accessed 24 August 2021; UNICEF/WHO/World Bank. Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates Expanded Database: Stunting, Wasting and Overweight; published online July 2020. Available at: https://data.unicef.org/resources/dataset/malnutrition-data. Accessed 31 August 2021; NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. 2017. Available at: http://ncdrisc.org/data-downloads.html. Accessed 24 August 2021; Tufts University. Global Dietary Database; published online 2019. Available at: https://www.globaldietarydatabase.org/data-download. Accessed 6 September 2021.
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 (15–49 years), infants with low birthweight, exclusive breastfeeding among infants under 6 months of age, and childhood stunting, wasting and overweight. NCD targets include adult obesity and diabetes, raised blood pressure and sodium intake. 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: 40% reduction in the number of children under 5 years of age who are stunted; 50% reduction of anaemia in women of reproductive age; 30% reduction in low birth weight; no increase in childhood overweight; increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months to at least 50%; reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than 5%; 30% relative reduction in the mean population intake of salt/sodium by 2025; 25% relative reduction in the prevalence of raised blood pressure or contain the prevalence of raised blood pressure, according to national circumstances; and halt the rise in obesity and diabetes. 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. Published online July 2020. Available at: http://data.unicef.org/nutrition/iycf. Accessed 24 August 2021.
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 20 years and over compared against minimum and maximum targets
Source: Tufts University. Global Dietary Database. Published online 2019. Available at: https://www.globaldietarydatabase.org/data-download. Accessed 6 September 2021.
Notes: Intakes are reported in grams per day (g/d) for all dietary factors. 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. Recommended intake targets were determined by the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. This includes minimum recommended intakes of health promoting food groups (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and wholegrains) and maximum recommended intakes of food groups with detrimental health and/or environmental impacts (red meat, dairy, and fish). Ideal intake for each food is within the shaded area of the graph.
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. Available at: https://fortificationdata.org/interactive-map-fortification-legislation. Accessed 31 August 2021; Global Fortification Data Exchange. Available at: https://fortificationdata.org/interactive-map-fortification-legislation. Accessed 24 August 2021; WHO. Global Health Observatory Data Repository. Available at: https://www.who.int/data/gho/data/indicators. Accessed 2 September 2021.
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 childhood stunting
- Reduce childhood wasting
- Reduce childhood 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: Global Nutrition Report 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.
Environmental impacts of the food system
Pressure from the food system on environmental factors as a percentage of total pressure
Source: New analysis based on estimates of food demand from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (FAO. Food Balance Sheets: A Handbook. Rome, Italy: FAO, 2001) and a database of country- and food group-specific environmental footprints (Springmann et al. Nature 2018; 562: 519–25; Poore & Nemecek. Science 2018; 360: 987–92).
Notes: Data on food demand for each country from FAO was paired with a comprehensive database of environmental footprints, differentiated by country, food group, and environmental impact. The footprints take into account all food production, including inputs such as fertilisers and feed, transport, and processing, e.g., of oil seeds to oils and sugar crops to sugars. The displayed total pressure is in the units stated for each environamental domain and has been rounded to the nearest 10 units.
Food system impact on planetary boundaries
Source: New analysis based on estimates of food demand from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (FAO. Food Balance Sheets: A Handbook. Rome, Italy: FAO, 2001) and a database of country- and food group-specific environmental footprints (Springmann et al. Nature 2018; 562: 519–25; Poore & Nemecek. Science 2018; 360: 987–92). The target values for sustainable food production are in line with Sustainable Development Goals specified by and adapted from the EAT-Lancet Commission (Willett et al.The Lancet 2019; 393: 447–92.; Springmann et al. The British Medical Journal 2020; 370: 2322).
Notes: Planetary boundaries define the threshold related to global environmental processes beyond which humanity should not go. Planetary boundaries align with the targets for sustainable food production as set out by the Sustainable Development Goals. If impacts exceed 100% of the planetary boundary, the dietary pattern of that particular region or country can be considered unsustainable in light of global environmental targets, and disproportionate in the context of an equitable distribution of environmental resources and mitigation efforts.