Well-being of young children

Data and maps on undernourishment tell us where people have the most difficulty obtaining sufficient food. But they do not indicate where children's nutritional status has been most severely damaged by a combination of inadequate food intake and other factors, such as high incidence of diarrhoea and other diseases that prevent proper digestion of the food consumed. That information can only be obtained by weighing and measuring children systematically.

Information available from countries that have conducted anthropometric surveys shows that an alarmingly high proportion of children in the developing world suffer the effects of undernutrition. According to data obtained from surveys conducted between 1987 and 1998, two out of five children in the developing world are stunted, one in three is underweight and one in ten is wasted.

The numbers vary considerably among regions. In South Asia, half the children under five are underweight, compared with 33 percent in Africa and 21 percent in East and Southeast Asia. The incidence is lowest in Latin America and the Caribbean. With the highest incidence of undernutrition and a very large population of children under five, South Asia

accounts for almost half of all the world's underweight and stunted children. These figures indicate that far more children in South Asia than elsewhere in the world do not reach the weights and heights that are considered to represent healthy growth.

Incidence of malnutrition in vulnerable areas
Vulnerable people - who and why