Eating a balanced diet is vital for our health and well-being. Food provides our bodies with the energy, proteins, vitamins, and minerals to live, grow, and stay active. We need a wide variety of different foods to provide the right amounts of nutrients to live healthy and productive lives.
However, in many countries - rich and poor alike - foods that are rich in nutrients, like fish, nuts, fruits and vegetables, are often far too expensive for ordinary people, or they are unsafe, inconvenient, unattractive and simply not available.
Malnutrition is caused by the interaction of poor quality diets and poor health environments and is manifest in a number of different ways:
- poor child growth (stunting, wasting and underweight);
- micronutrient deficiencies (lack of vitamins and minerals);
- overweight and obesity (excess weight or body fat);
- non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes or heart diseases).
The facts related to malnutrition are stark1:
- 1 in 3 people worldwide suffer from some type of malnutrition, every country has a problem with at least one type of malnutrition and the vast majority of countries suffer from more than one.
- 821 million people globally do not get enough calories to stave off chronic hunger.
- 2 billion people do not consume enough vitamins and minerals for healthy growth.
- Stunting and wasting are linked with 45% of all under 3 mortality and poor diets are linked with 22% of all premature adult mortality2.
- Children that are stunted at age 3 do significantly worse in school and are more likely to live in poverty as adults.
- Overweight and obesity affect 2 billion people globally and the numbers are rising in virtually every country in the world.
- 151 million children under five have stunted physical and cognitive development.
- 8 of 15 risk factors in the global burden of disease are related to poor quality diets3.
- 1 in 5 deaths are linked to poor diets4.
- 11% of the gross domestic product in Africa and Asia is estimated to be lost to malnutrition each year.
- On average, African and Asian governments spend 0.4% of their total budgets on nutrition programmes and 5% on health in general, despite malnutrition being the number one risk factor in their burden of disease.
- For every dollar invested in nutrition, 16 dollars are generated in returns.
Despite some notable country successes in reducing malnutrition (for example in Bangladesh, Ghana, Senegal and Vietnam), the world is off track in meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 2 of ending malnutrition in all its forms by 2030. We are working urgently with our partners to change that.
1. All figures are taken from Global Nutrition Reports (2014-2018) unless otherwise specified.
3. Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 84 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, The Lancet.