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A REPORT CARD ON NUTRITION: NUMBER 4, MAY 2006 View Previous Editions>


Nutrition and children
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Progress towards reaching the MDG target needs to accelerate.

The prevalence of underweight in children under five has decreased since 1990 in the developing world, but the rate of reduction needs to accelerate if undernutrition is to be reduced by half by 2015. The solid lines show the regional proportions of underweight children in 1990 and 2004. The dotted lines show progress that will need to be made in order to reach the target.

Will the MDG be met?

Will the MDG be met?

Despite an overall improvement between 1990 and 2004, the present rate of decline in the proportion of underweight children in the developing world is not sufficient to reach the MDG target of reducing hunger by half between 1990 and 2015. The average annual rate of reduction (AARR) stands at 1.7 per cent – and unless that rate improves, 50 million children who could have benefited from adequate nutrition by 2015 will miss out, their very lives at stake.4

Latin America/Caribbean, with an AARR of 3.8 per cent, is on track to reach the target, and East Asia/Pacific, with an AARR of 3.6 per cent, has practically already achieved it. Again, the region’s progress is primarily driven by China, where underweight prevalence declined from 19 per cent in 1990 to 8 per cent in 2002. Taken without China, however, East Asia/Pacific is not on track to achieve the target.

Both West/Central Africa (1.6 per cent AARR) and South Asia (1.7 per cent AARR) have made progress, although not sufficient to reach the target.

There has been no change in Eastern/Southern Africa, while the situation in the Middle East/North Africa has deteriorated (its AARR is -1.6 per cent). The deterioration in this region is mainly attributable to conditions in three countries – Iraq, Sudan and Yemen – with large populations that have been affected by conflict or natural disasters.

Data are insufficient to track progress for the CEE/CIS region, where levels of undernutrition are generally already low.

It is important to note that tracking progress towards this goal, which has a 1990 baseline, is limited by the fact that many countries did not have data for underweight prevalence in the early 1990s. (Data for this indicator became more widely available in the mid-1990s.) Countries with insufficient data are those with no data or those with only one estimate of underweight prevalence but no trend data. More details on trends within each region, including data on individual countries, are presented in the following sections.



4  United Nations Children’s Fund, The State of the World’s Children 2006, UNICEF, New York, 2005, p.5