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Last update: Sep 2013

Progress varies by region

Stunting

In 2012, an estimated 25 per cent of children under five years of age were stunted globally, or 162 million children, which represents a 37 per cent decrease from an estimated 257 million in 1990. East Asia and Pacific observed the largest drop in stunting prevalence between 1990 and 2011, from 42 per cent to 12 per cent respectively, or an estimated 84 million to 18 million in the same time period.

 

Most regions saw a decrease in stunting prevalence; however 1 in 4 children remain stunted globally
Proportion of under-five children who are stunted(%), 1990 and 2012

Note: The trend analysis based on a multilevel modelling method described here. To see detailed country-level data and fitted regional trend lines, click here. Prevalence estimates are calculated according to the WHO Child Growth Standards. Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals of the estimated regional prevalence.
Source: United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization, The World Bank, UNICEF-WHO-World Bank Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates, 2013.

 

Underweight

The first Millennium Development Goal (MDG1) aims to halve child underweight prevalence between 1990 and 2015. It is estimated that three regions – East Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and Central and Eastern Europe/Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS) – have already reached the MDG target of halving the child underweight prevalence.

 

Globally, an estimated 15 per cent of children under five years of age were underweight in 2012, or 99 million children, a decline of 38 per cent from an estimated 160 million children in 1990. In South Asia, underweight prevalence declined from 52 to 32 per cent between 1990 and 2012, progress made largely due to estimated declines in China.


All regions have made progress in reducing underweight prevalence
Proportion of under-five children who are underweight (%), 1990 and 2012

                 

Note: The trend analysis based on a multilevel modelling method described here. To see detailed country-level data and fitted regional trend lines, click here. Prevalence estimates are calculated according to the WHO Child Growth Standards. Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals of the estimated regional prevalence.
Source: United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization, The World Bank, UNICEF-WHO-World Bank Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates, 2013.

 

Wasting

Globally an estimated 51 million children under five years of age were wasted in 2012, or an estimated 8 per cent. Nearly 70 per cent of the world’s wasted children live in Asia, and as a region South Asia has an alarmingly high prevalence of 16 per cent wasting in 2012. 

  

Overweight

In 2012, an estimated 44 million children under five years of age worldwide were overweight, a 43 per cent increase from an estimated 31 million in 1990.

 

Increasing trends in child overweight prevalence affect all world regions
Proportion of under-five children who are overweight (%), 1990 and 2012

             

Note: The trend analysis based on a multilevel modelling method described here. To see detailed country-level data and fitted regional trend lines, click here. Prevalence estimates are calculated according to the WHO Child Growth Standards. Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals of the estimated regional prevalence.
Source: United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization, The World Bank, UNICEF-WHO-World Bank Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates, 2013.

 

Disparity in trends

Progress in reducing underweight prevalence is often unequal between the rich and the poor. In India, for example, there was no significant improvement among children in the poorest households, while underweight prevalence in the richest 20 per cent of households decreased by about a third between 1990 and 2008. Undernutrition is the result of a combination of factors: lack of food in terms of quantity and quality; inadequate water, sanitation and health services; and suboptimal care and feeding practices. Until improvements are made in these three aspects of nutrition, progress will be limited.

 

In India, a greater reduction in underweight prevalence occurred in the richest 20 per cent of households than in the poorest 20 per cent
Percentage of children 0–59 months old who are underweight in India, by household wealth quintile

                   

Note: Prevalence estimates are calculated according to the National Center for Health Statistics reference population, as there were insufficient data to calculate trend estimates by household wealth according to World Health Organization Child Growth Standards. Estimates are age-adjusted to represent children 0–59 months in each survey.
Source: National Family Health Surveys, 1992–1993, 1998–1999 and 2005–2006.