• Danielle Stephens

The Global Nutrition Report 2020

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

The Global Nutrition Report was published yesterday (12th May 2020). This report highlights the global burden of malnutrition and how we, as a global community must come together to combat this burden and ultimately improve the quality of life for many millions of people.

We have a responsibility to help those most in need to get adequate nutritional care and have access to healthy sustainable food. I have summarised below what the purpose of this report is and its key findings and messages.

Malnutrition – a global burden

Before starting my degree in nutrition, like many of you, I was aware that many people around the world were malnourished and many millions of people were affected. When I thought of malnutrition, I thought of those in the and poorest communities and countries who had little to no access to healthy affordable food.

However, what I did not understand is the true extent to which malnutrition affects the health of individuals, the impact it has on every aspect of their lives and the impact it has on the healthcare systems and economies of countries.

52 million children under the age of 5 around the world are suffering from wasting*. 45% of deaths of children under the age of 5 in South East Asia are associated with undernutrition. A total of 462 million people are underweight. On the flip slide, 1.9 billion people worldwide are overweight or obese.

*A low weight for height measurement.

What is the global nutrition report?

A report is published each year by an independent exert organisation, assessing the state of global malnutrition. The report usually focuses on the next steps in combating malnutrition and what governments and key stakeholders around the world should be doing. The member states if the United Nations are those who are involved in this initiative to tackle the global burden of malnutrition.

The vision of this independent organisation and the UN member states is a world free of malnutrition. They believe that everyone deserves access to healthy, affordable food and quality nutrition care.

The report highlights the double burden of malnutrition. Many of the poorest communities around the world have high rates if undernutrition, however there is also the burden overnutrition, with the ever-increasing number of overweight and obese individuals. This double burden puts a huge strain on healthcare systems and has huge economic impact around the world. Therefore, nutritional interventions and policies can both improve the quality of life for millions of people, and relieve strain on the economies and health care systems.

What are its key 2025 targets?

In 2014 the World Heath Organisation set out 6 keys targets that they wanted to achieve in regard to global malnutrition by 2025. These included:

  1. 40% decrease in the number of children under the age of 5 who are stunted*.

  2. 50% decrease in anaemia in women of reproductive age - anaemia is the main consequence of iron deficiency.

  3. 30% decrease in low birth weight - low birth weight results in health problems for the infant.

  4. No increase in childhood obesity.

  5. Increase the number of women exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months to 50%.

  6. Decrease and maintain childhood wasting at below 5%.

The report this year highlights that none of the member countries will meet all the targets set out by 2025 and only 8 of the 194 countries will meet 4 of the targets.

There is therefore a real sense of urgency in this report to implement more policies and strategies so we as a global community, can tackle malnutrition once and for all.

*A low height for age

Main headlines of the 2020 report

  • 1 in 9 people are hungry or undernourished.

  • 1 in 3 people are overweight or obese.

  • We now have the double burden of malnutrition.

  • Underweight persists in the poorer counties – rates can be up to 10x higher than in wealthier countries.

  • Conversely overweight and obesity is up to 5x higher in richer countries.

  • Diet diversity is much lower for children in the poorest households, in rural areas and less-educated mothers.

Strategies outlined to combat global malnutrition

They can want to address the inequalities so that healthy and sustainable food and nutrition care is available to everyone. They are therefore focusing on inequalities in 3 key areas:

  1. Food systems

  2. Health systems

  3. Financing

Food systems

The report states that there is the need to make healthy and sustainable food more accessible and affordable to everyone.

  • They would like the food industry to play their part by producing and marketing healthier foods so people will be more likely to buy them.

  • They want to increase the investment in agriculture to make more diverse range of fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes available and affordable for everyone.

  • They want to make a shorter supply chain and therefore shorter transport time, focusing n the accessibility of fresh produce to the poorest and most remote communities, so that fresh produce is accessible to everyone.

  • And finally, they would like the governments of the member countries to implement policies so that everyone is be able to have access to healthy sustainable diets. This would be done through the reformulation of food products, for example making biscuits lower in sugar. They would implement policies in schools and in the workplace so that healthier options are available, and change food labelling so that it is easier for us consumers to make healthier food choices.

This aspect the report will tackle both the burden of undernutrition through the increased availability of more diverse nutritious foods, and overnutrition owing to the increased availability and marketing of healthier food products by the food industry.

Health systems

Healthcare systems in countries must work alongside nutrition.

  • Implementation of nutrition care into our existing healthcare systems and increase the number of nutritional professionals so that nutrition care is available for everyone.

  • Improve and increase the monitoring of people at greatest risk and in greatest need of nutrition acre so they can get the care and treatment they need.


The global community must focus financing and resources to programmes in communities that are most affected by malnutrition and increase the availability of finance to countries and communities most in need.

  • Address the power imbalances in the health and food systems so that everyone can get adequate nutritional care.

  • Increased discussions and communications so that nutritional policies can be implemented, and the communities and governments are involved in every aspect of policy making and implementation.

  • The removal any barriers such has in health and education, so that nutrition can be improved.


Key take away messages from the report

As a global community we have a responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to healthy, nutritious sustainable food and nutrition care.

We must invest in agriculture and nutrition care so that we can make a real difference.

We must tackle the staggering inequalities that are present between and within countries.

We must work together to implement these policies and strategies.

If you are interested in finding out more about the report I have linked the full report below.

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