Press centre

Information note

UN Agencies release new data on levels and trends in child malnutrition

22 September 2015 - UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Bank Group today released updated estimates on child malnutrition, including stunting, wasting and excessive weight.   These figures update the child malnutrition numbers in recently released 2015 Global Nutrition Report and today’s new estimates include data from 62 new surveys from 57 countries.  

The key new figures reflect the downward trend reported on in the GNR:

The new 2014 data reveals that 159 million children are stunted, 50 million are wasted and 41 million are overweight. [1]

Major forms of malnutrition in children under the age of five all pose a threat to the long and short-term development of the child, families, communities and nations.

To see the latest figures, download the report at:  full report  The charts and graphs in the report are available in vector files here:

Today’s report explains the methodology behind the estimates, and contains several charts, graphs and maps available for downloading.

Stunting refers to a child that is too short for their age, due to a failure to grow both physically and cognitively because of chronic malnutrition. While seemingly short but healthy, the effects of stunting last generations.

Stunting rates are dropping globally, however in Africa, there has been a 23 per cent rise in numbers since 1990, and 159 million children today are affected, mainly in Asia. Lower-income countries have more stunted children per capita in their under 5 population, putting them at a disadvantage for the future growth and development.

Wasting is seen in children that are too thin for their height. Caused by sudden or acute malnutrition, due either to insufficient caloric intake  or disease, and poses an immediate risk of death. Globally, there are 50 million children under 5 who were wasted, with 16 million of those being severely wasted.  Southern Asia is home to more than half of all the wasted children under 5.

Overweight is the opposite of wasting – a child that is too heavy for their height. Because they take in more calories than they expend, these children are at increased risk of non-communicable diseases later in life. Despite what many may initially assume, in 2014 nearly three-quarters of all overweight children lived in Asia and Africa, with numbers on the rise globally. The greatest increases have been in lower-middle-income countries, with numbers more than doubling since 1990.

For further information, please contact:

Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media, Tel: + 1 212 326 7452, Mobile: + 1 917 378 2128,

Christian Lindmeier, Communications Officer, WHO, Tel: +41 22 791 19 48, Mobile: +41 79 500 65 52,

[1] The figures issued last week are from 2013 and show 161 million children U5 are stunted, 51 million children are wasted and 42 million overweight




New enhanced search