Malnutrition remains problem as obesity, diabetes increase

TORONTO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Nearly one in three of the world’s population are malnourished, even as obesity spreads around the globe, says an international food security think-tank.

Stunting, which results in children too short for their age because of a poor diet, affects more than 160 million children younger than five, the International Food Policy Research Institute said in its Global Nutrition Report.

The number of hungry people in the world fell, but obesity rose between 2010 and 2014 “in every single country,” and one in 12 adults worldwide now has Type 2 diabetes, the report said.

Adult diabetes is increasing in 185 countries and is decreasing or stable in just five.

“Too often people think of malnutrition as just a problem of hungry kids in the poorest countries…. (It) has many forms and affects all countries, rich and poor alike,” said Corinna Hawkes, co-author of the report.

“The coexistence of nutritional problems associated with extreme deprivation and obesity is the real face of malnutrition.”

Two billion people are not eating the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals and thus face micronutrient malnutrition, while 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese.

Forty-five percent of all deaths of children younger than five are related to malnutrition, the report said.

In five large developing countries — Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Pakistan — 43 to 48 percent of children younger than five are not stunted or wasted, which means underweight for their age.

Childhood malnutrition will have a dangerous impact on future development in those countries with fast-expanding populations because children will not reach their full physical or intellectual potential as adults, it said.

The report, published ahead of a United Nations summit to establish a new set of sustainable development goals on reducing international poverty, said governments should spend more than the 1.3 percent of their budgets they currently allocate on average for nutrition-related programs.

One dollar invested in nutrition-related programs offers a return of up to $16 in economic benefits, the report said, such as increased productivity and lower health-care costs.

“People cannot get anywhere near their full potential without first overcoming malnutrition,” said Lawrence Haddad, the report’s lead author.

“This not only jeopardizes the lives of those who are malnourished but also affects the larger framework of economic growth and sustainable development.”


Stories from our other publications