World grows richer, but poor still face massive nutritional deficiencies - UN report

22 March 2004

Despite some progress in improving nutrition among the world's poor, improvements have failed to keep pace with the overall climate of global economic growth, according to a new United Nations report.

Nutrition for Improved Development Outcomes shows that while global gross domestic product has doubled during the past 20 years, the number of underweight pre-school children has been cut by only 20 per cent.

Launching the report in New York today, Catherine Bertini, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Management and former head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), said this trend constitutes "the scandal of malnutrition in the world today."

The report shows that progress has been uneven, with sub-Saharan Africa lagging behind other developing areas. Lawrence Haddad of the International Food Policy Research Institute, also present at the briefing, said that micronutrient status, maternal nutrition status, shorter children, thinner children, low birth weight and all the other indicators of malnutrition showed Africa was heading in the wrong direction.

He noted that the broader context must be taken into account when examining the relationship between economic growth and reductions in childhood malnutrition, which depends not only on having enough food to eat but also on how that food is allocated. Other related concerns include the availability of health services and the prevalence of disease. "It's a very complex set of factors that are important for reducing malnutrition," he said.

According to the report, 10 million children below 5 years of age are dying every year - half of them from preventable causes related to proper nutrition.


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