Few challenges facing the global community today match the scale of malnutrition, a condition that directly affects one in three people. Malnutrition manifests itself in many different ways: as poor child growth and development; as individuals who are skin and bone or prone to infection; as those who are carrying too much weight or whose blood contains too much sugar, salt, fat, or cholesterol; or those who are deficient in important vitamins or minerals.
Malnutrition and diet are by far the biggest risk factors for the global burden of disease: every country is facing a serious public health challenge from malnutrition. The economic consequences represent losses of 11 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) every year in Africa and Asia, whereas preventing malnutrion delivers $16 in returns on investment for every $1 spent. The world’s countries have agreed on targets for nutrition, but despite some progress in recent years the world is off track to reach those targets.
This third stocktaking of the state of the world’s nutrition points to ways to reverse this trend and end all forms of malnutrition by 2030. Over the past decade, momentum around nutrition has been steadily building: In 2012 the World Health Assembly adopted the 2025 Global Targets for Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition. The following year, it went on to adopt targets for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including those relevent to nutrition. Also in 2013, at the first Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit, donors committed US$23 billion to actions to improve nutrition.
With the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in 2014 and with the recent naming of 2016–2025 as the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition, more and more people have begun to recognize the importance of addressing malnutrition in all its forms. In 2015, the UN Sustainable Development Goals enshrined the objective of “ending all forms of malnutrition,” challenging the world to think and act differently on malnutrition—to focus on all its faces and work to end it, for all people, by 2030.