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


Nutrition and children
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This report card primarily uses the term undernutrition, defined as the outcome of insufficient food intake (hunger) and repeated infectious diseases. Undernutrition includes being underweight for one’s age, too short for one’s age (stunted), dangerously thin (wasted), and deficient in vitamins and minerals (micronutrient malnutrition). The term malnutrition refers to both undernutrition and overnutrition.

What is undernutrition?

What is undernutrition?

When individuals are undernourished, they can no longer maintain natural bodily capacities, such as growth, resisting infections and recovering from disease, learning and physical work, and pregnancy and lactation in women. Poor feeding of infants and young children, especially the lack of optimal breastfeeding and responsive complementary feeding, along with such illnesses as diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria and HIV/AIDS, often exacerbated by helminths, are major causes of undernutrition.2

The second target of MDG 1 is to reduce the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by half between 1990 and 2015. The indicator by which progress is measured – and the focus of this report card – is the prevalence of underweight in children under five, specifically, the percentage of children aged 0–59 months who fall below minus two standard deviations from the median weight for age of the standard reference population.

Estimates for underweight prevalence are based on the most recent data available to UNICEF for years between 1996 and 2005 from 110 countries, covering 98 per cent of the developing world’s under-five population. Trend analysis is based on a subset of 73 countries with available trend data for 1990–2004, covering 86 per cent of children in developing countries.

Read about how school feeding alleviates hunger and gives education a boost --> 



2  Malnutrition is a broad term commonly used as an alternative to undernutrition, but technically it also refers to overnutrition – to the current epidemic of obesity and related diseases, such as diabetes, in both the industrialized and developing worlds.