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Investing in Nutrition

Malnutrition kills millions of children every year and robs millions more of the opportunity to reach their full potential. In 2012, world leaders committed to reaching six global nutrition targets by 2025. To meet these targets, the world will need to invest an estimated $70 billion on top of current funding in the next 10 years. This is achievable, but world leaders must act now to fulfill their promises. The analysis presented here demonstrates how all stakeholders can work together to close the resource gap and save millions of lives.



Stunting affects 159 million children under five worldwide.

Percentage of people affected

Source: Global Nutrition Report 2016, (drawing on: UNICEF, WHO and World Bank 2015); India data based on Rapid Survey of Children: 2013-4

no data

159 M

Stunted children


World Health Assembly Target
40% reduction in number of children stunted by 2025


Fewer children stunted


Child lives saved

Why does it matter?

Stunting is the largely irreversible outcome of chronic undernutrition and affects one in four children under the age of five. Stunted children have weaker immune systems, making them more susceptible to death and disease and diminishing their cognitive capacity, which impacts their ability to learn in school and earn higher incomes later in life.

Crosses generations

Research has shown that malnutrition often exists in an inter-generational cycle, and malnourished mothers are more than twice as likely to have stunted children as are well-nourished mothers.

Lasts a lifetime

The effects of stunting last a lifetime: impaired brain development, lower IQ, weakened immune systems, and greater risk of serious diseases like diabetes and cancer later in life.

Can be prevented but not reversed

Stunting is almost always irreversible but it can be prevented by improving nutrition for women and children in the first 1,000 days.


children under five affected


World Health Assembly Target
Reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than 5%


Cases of severe acute malnutrition treated


Child lives saved

Why does it matter?

Globally, 50 million children under the age of five are wasted, and wasting accounts for 2 million child deaths every year. Wasting occurs when children lose weight rapidly because of diets which do not meet their nutritional needs. Wasted children are more likely to die of infectious diseases like diarrhea, pneumonia, and measles. Wasting also increases the risk of stunting, impaired cognitive development, and non-communicable diseases in adulthood.

Results from rapid weight loss

Children become wasted when they lose weight rapidly, usually because of a combination of infection and insufficient dietary intake.

Makes other illnesses more dangerous

Severely wasted children are 11 times more likely to die than healthy children, as wasting increases the risk of death from infectious diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia and measles.

Lasts a lifetime

Wasting increases the risk of stunted growth, impaired cognitive development and non-communicable diseases in adulthood.


Women of reproductive age affected


World Health Assembly Target
50% reduction in anemia by 2025


Cases of anemia prevented


Child lives saved

Why does it matter?

Anemia affects half a billion women of reproductive age worldwide, impairing their health and economic productivity. An indicator of poor nutrition, anemia is a condition in which the ability of the blood to transport oxygen around the body is impaired. In pregnant women, anemia can lead to maternal death and can have serious health consequences for infants, including stillbirth, prematurity, and low birth weight.

Increases risk of adverse maternal & infant health outcomes

Maternal anemia is associated with illness and death of both the mother and baby, including increased risk of miscarriages, stillbirths, premature birth and low birth weight.

Hinders day-to-day life

Anemia causes fatigue and makes women feel lethargic. It also impairs physical capacity and work performance.

Affects millions

Anemia diminishes the health and quality of life for millions of women, as well as the development and learning potential of their children.


infants under 6 months affected


World Health Assembly Target
50% more children exclusively breastfeeding by 2025


Children exclusively breastfed


Child lives saved

Why does it matter?

Exclusive breastfeeding—defined as the practice of only giving an infant breast-milk for the first 6 months of life—is a cornerstone of child survival and child health. It boosts a child’s immune system, protects against diseases, increases intelligence, and promotes healthy growth. Exclusive breastfeeding has the single largest potential impact on child survival of any preventive intervention.

Gives babies the best start

Exclusive breastfeeding gives babies everything they need for healthy growth and brain development so they can get the best start to life.

Protects against illness

Exclusive breastfeeding protects children from respiratory infections, diarrheal disease, and other life-threatening illnesses.

Prevents non-communicable diseases

Exclusive breastfeeding is shown to protect against obesity and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes

Other nutrition targets (not included in the analysis)

Low birth weight


Assessment of the WHA nutrition targets on childhood overweight and low birthweight was not included because, at the time of this analysis, there were either insufficient data on the prevalence of the condition (low birthweight) or consensus on effective interventions to reach the goal (child overweight). See here for emerging recommendations on a package of interventions to address childhood overweight.