Among children under the age of five around the world, 161 million are stunted, 51 million are wasted, and 42 million are obese, according to the 2015 Global Nutrition Report released today by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, DC. The report illustrates that malnutrition takes many forms and affects every country on earth. Whereas some solutions for reducing malnutrition are promising, it does not take the same form nor demand the same policy solutions in every country or context. With the human and financial costs well-documented, malnutrition is a problem widespread enough to threaten the achievability of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Last year’s Global Nutrition Report was the first comprehensive summary and scorecard on both global and country level progress on all forms of nutrition for all 193 UN member countries. The 2015 edition covers all forms of malnutrition, identifying and reflecting on new opportunities, actions, progress, and accountability for nutrition across 193 countries, six regions, and 22 sub-regions. The goal of the report is to help provide guidance for action and spur increased accountability and commitment to the rapid reduction of malnutrition.

The Global Nutrition Report 2015 makes it clear that global progress to reduce malnutrition has been slow and uneven. Nearly half of all countries face a number of serious burdens from malnutrition such as poor child growth, micronutrient deficiency, and adult overweight and obesity. Not a single country is on track to achieve the global nutrition targets established by the World Health Assembly; for example, most countries are off course in expanding exclusive breastfeeding, with six countries on three continents regressing badly. Adult diabetes is also increasing throughout 185 countries and is decreasing or stable in just five countries.

“If governments want to achieve the SDG target of ending all forms of malnutrition by 2030, there are clear pathways for them to follow,” said IFPRI Director General Shenggen Fan. “This report provides many examples of countries that have done so with intent. The report is both a mirror and a beacon for nutrition action. It is a mirror because it shows us where we are making good progress and where we are not. It is a beacon because it highlights actions that need to be taken to end malnutrition.”

“Perhaps most importantly,” said Fan, “the report helps make all of us more accountable for our efforts to end malnutrition—efforts that must be redoubled as we enter the post-2015 era.”

The report highlights the critical relationship between climate change and nutrition, as well as the pivotal role business can play in advancing nutrition. It also considers how countries can build food systems that are more nutrition friendly, sustainable, and lead to healthier outcomes. New features include more nuanced ways of tracking and presenting whether countries are on or off course to meet global nutrition targets, a greater focus on obesity and related non-communicable diseases, more detailed data from countries and donors on financial allocations to nutrition, and a focus on a wider set of actors that can be engaged to accelerate a reduction in malnutrition.

The timing of the report is particularly important as United Nations member states convene to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals later this month. When 45 percent of all deaths of children under 5 are related to malnutrition, it is critical that leaders keep nutrition policy at the forefront of their decision-making.

FULL REPORT: Global Nutrition Report 2015: Actions and accountability to advance nutrition and sustainable development

BY: Rachel Kohn, IFPRI

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