• Home
  • Data collection
  • Data analysis
  • Data dissemination
  • Statistics by area
  • Statistical tables
  • Statistics by country
  • Publications
Last update: Sep 2013

Current status

Stunting

Globally, one quarter of under-five children are stunted or an estimated 162 million in 2012.  Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have particularly high prevalence, at about 38 per cent in both. This indicates an urgent need to accelerate integrated programmes addressing nutrition during the mother’s pregnancy and before the child reaches two years of age, the period of children’s most rapid physical and mental growth and development.

 

One in four children in the world are stunted
Percentage of children under five years who are stunted in 2012

                   

Note: Estimates are calculated according to WHO Child Growth Standards. More information on the modelling methodology can be found here.
Source: United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization, The World Bank, UNICEF-WHO-World Bank Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates, 2013.

 

Underweight

Fifteen per cent of the under-five children globally are estimated to be underweight in 2012. 

The high prevalence of underweight in South Asia stands out in comparison to other regions of the world. Latin America and the Caribbean and Central and Eastern Europe/Commonwealth of Independent States  have the lowest rate, which at 3 per cent and 2 per cent respectively is only a small fraction of underweight prevalence in most other regions.

 

1 in 3 children are underweight in South Asia
Percentage of children under five years who are underweight in 2012

                  

Note: Estimates are calculated according to WHO Child Growth Standards. More information on the modelling methodology can be found here.
Source: United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization, The World Bank, UNICEF-WHO-World Bank Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates, 2013. 

 

Wasting

Children who suffer from wasting face a markedly increased risk of death. In 2012, nearly 70 per cent of the world’s wasted children lived in Asia. These children are at substantial increased risk of severe acute malnutrition and death. In 19 out of 80 countries with recent estimates, wasting prevalence is 10 per cent or higher, requiring immediate intervention, such as emergency feeding programmes. In South Asia, prevalence of wasting is at an alarmingly high level of 16 per cent.

 

Approximately 1 in 6 children in South Asia suffer from wasting
Percentage of children under five who are wasted in 2012

                   

Note: Estimates are calculated according to WHO Child Growth Standards. More information on the modelling methodology can be found here.
Source: United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization, The World Bank, UNICEF-WHO-World Bank Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates, 2013.

 

Overweight

Increasing trends in child overweight have been noted in most world regions, not only developed countries. Globally, an estimated 44 million (7 per cent) of children under-five years of age were overweight in 2012, a 43 per cent increase from an estimated 31 million in 1990.

More than 1 in 10 children are overweight in two regions
Percentage of children under five who are overweight in 2012

                    

Note: Estimates are calculated according to WHO Child Growth Standards. More information on the modelling methodology can be found here.
Source: United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization, The World Bank, UNICEF-WHO-World Bank Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates, 2013.

 

Disparities

There is little difference in underweight prevalence between girls and boys. Yet in all regions of the world, children living in rural areas are more likely to be underweight than those in urban areas. In developing countries, children are twice as likely to be underweight in rural areas as in urban areas. Data disaggregated according to wealth show children from the poorest 20 per cent of households more likely to be underweight than those from the richest 20 per cent.

 

Across regions, stunting prevalence is higher in the poorest households
Percentage of children 0–59 months old who are stunted, by household wealth quintile, 2007 - 2011

                            

Note:Analysis is based on a subset of 61 countries with household wealth quintile information, covering 53 per cent of the under-five population in the developing world. Prevalence estimates are calculated according to WHO Child Growth Standards, 2007–2011. CEE/CIS, East Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean and Middle East and North Africa are not included due to lack of data coverage.
Source: UNICEF global databases, from MICS, DHS and other national surveys, 2007–2011

 

In most countries with available data, prevalence of stunting is similar among boys and girls
Ratio of stunting prevalence (girls to boys, percentage of children 0–59 months old), 2007-2011

                            
Source: UNICEF global databases, from MICS, DHS and other national surveys, 2007–2011.
Note: This figure presents ratios from 85 countries with data available by sex, covering more than 50 per cent of the under-five populations in the world (excluding China, for which comparable data are not available). Prevalence estimates are based on WHO Child Growth Standards. For the purpose of illustrating gender equity, a range from 0.85 to 1.15 in the ratio of stunting prevalence was taken as the window of “gender parity” (grey band). A dot above the grey band suggests that girls are more likely to be stunted, while a dot below the band suggests that boys are more likely. It should be noted that this window is wider than the ones assigned to other indicators. This is due to the fact that stunting prevalence estimates are relatively low and bear a level of uncertainty when calculated from survey data (about three percentage points above and below the point estimate).