Nutrition is a critical part of health and development. People with adequate nutrition are more productive and can create opportunities to gradually break the features of development of children of middle age of poverty and hunger. Malnutrition, in every form, presents significant threats to human health.
Today the world faces a double burden of malnutrition that includes both undernutrition and overweight, especially in low- and middle-income countries. WHO is providing scientific advice and decision-making tools that can help countries take action to address all forms of malnutrition to support health and wellbeing for all, at all ages. This fact file explores the risks posed by all forms of malnutrition, starting from the earliest stages of development. At the same time, growing rates of overweight are linked to a rise in chronic diseases. The result is a double burden of malnutrition. About 155 million children globally are stunted, according to 2016 figures, resulting from not enough food, a vitamin- and mineral-poor diet, inadequate child care and disease.
As growth slows down, brain development lags and stunted children learn poorly. Rising food prices, food scarcity in areas of conflict, and natural disasters diminish household access to appropriate and adequate food, all of which can lead to wasting. Wasting demands emergency nutritional interventions to save lives. Vitamin A, zinc, iron and iodine deficiencies are primary public health concerns. 6-59 months of age are anaemic, with up to one-half considered to be amenable to iron supplementation. Together, maternal and child undernutrition account for more than 10 percent of the global burden of disease.
Appropriate feeding decreases rates of stunting and obesity and stimulates intellectual development in young children. Anaemia is a key nutritional problem in adolescent girls. Preventing early pregnancies and assuring adequate intakes of essential nutrients for developing girls can reduce maternal and child deaths later, and stop cycles of malnutrition from one generation to the next. The rise in overweight and obesity worldwide is a major public health challenge. People of all ages and backgrounds face this form of malnutrition. As a consequence, rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other diet-related conditions are escalating worldwide.
These are very difficult to treat in places with limited resources and with already overburdened health systems. Also, a nutrition landscape information system, developed by WHO and partners, provides country profiles on key nutrition indicators and affecting factors such as food, health and care. In response, WHO and partners are working together to provide scientific advice to countries, as well as user-friendly, web-based tools. 6 million children under the age of 5 years died in 2016. This translates into 15 000 under-five deaths per day. More than half of these early child deaths are due to conditions that could be prevented or treated with access to simple, affordable interventions. Leading causes of death in children under-5 years are preterm birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhoea and malaria.
Children in sub-Saharan Africa are more than 15 times more likely to die before the age of 5 than children in high income countries. Improving the quality of antenatal care, care at the time of childbirth, and postnatal care for mothers and their newborns are all essential to prevent these deaths. 6 million children died in the first month of life in 2016. From the end of the neonatal period and through the first 5 years of life, the main causes of death are pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria.
Malnutrition is the underlying contributing factor, making children more vulnerable to severe diseases. The world has made substantial progress in child survival since 1990. The global under-5 mortality rate has dropped by 56 per cent from 93 deaths per 1000 live births in 1990 to 41 in 2016. Meeting the SDG target would reduce the number of under-5 deaths by 10 million between 2017 and 2030. 6 million babies die every year in their first month of life and a similar number are stillborn.