Food and Nutrition

Topic(s)
Food and Nutrition

What is malnutrition?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines malnutrition as an imbalance in a person’s intake of energy or nutrients. This imbalance results in two conditions, either undernutrition, in which one has micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies, or obesity, in which one over-consumes nutrients. Malnutrition, in all its forms, includes undernutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight), inadequate vitamins or minerals, overweight, obesity, and resulting diet-related noncommunicable diseases. Malnutrition affects people in every country, and has profound, long-term effects on health and life prospects. It is responsible for more ill health than any other cause, and is a social and economic problem, holding back development across the world. 

Despite significant progress over recent decades, poor nutrition remains an immense and universal problem, with one in three people in the world affected by some form of malnutrition. Nearly one in four, or an estimated 150.8 million children under the age of 5 are stunted (low height for their age), 50.5 million suffer are wasted (low weight for their age) and 20 million newborn babies are estimated to be of low birth weight. Meanwhile, the number of overweight children worldwide has remained stagnant for more than a decade, with 38.3 million children under the age of five being overweight as of 2018. 

How does proper nutrition lead to improved performance in schools?

NRC
© NRC

Preventing malnutrition is the most effective way of achieving long-lasting results. From the first 1,000 days of conception until the age of two is the most pivotal time for prevention, seeing as a mothers and child’s nourishment and care have the most profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive. The damage done during this short time-frame can cause stunting and can have irreversible cognitive effects, greatly limiting a child’s potential for learning once they enter school. It is important to note that children are proxy indicators for the severity of a crisis, their well-being indicating the severity of their health and nutritional status as well as the status of their mothers

Improving the nutritional status of school-age children is an effective investment for improving their educational outcomes. Studies show that providing in-school meals and take-home rations through school feeding programs alleviates short-term hunger, increases children’s ability to concentrate, learn and perform specific tasks, and increases female enrollment. School feeding programs are proven to draw more children into classrooms and provide a social support measure that helps keep children in school, especially in low-income and highly food-insecure areas. In fact, 45 studies of school meal programmes showed that children receiving school meals during the entire school year attend school 4-7 days more than children whose schools do not. They also aid in better nutrition, as fortified school meals and snacks consistently reduce anemia prevalence and improve micronutrient status. School-based food and nutrition education (SFNE) expands beyond the classroom, engaging the children’s household and broader community. When schools offer opportunities to promote healthy dietary and physical activity patterns for children, this encourages the prevention of child malnutrition, and it is shown to have positive health effects on younger siblings of students

Food, Nutrition and Emergencies

Mae Sot
© Mae Sot, IRC

Conflicts and natural disasters are exacerbating this problem. Climate change, environmental degradation and natural hazards are disproportionately affecting vulnerable communities, and violent conflicts threaten the lives of millions of children and their families. Emergency situations are often characterized by limited access to adequate safe food and water, as well as disruptions in health and nutrition services. In these instances, food assistance is essential to saving lives, and providing the right nutrition at the right time can also help to change lives by understanding people’s long-term nutrition needs. By linking short-term emergency response to long-term assistance, organizations address the root of food insecurity and aid in breaking the cycle of poverty

Hunger and malnutrition are key concerns for refugees and displaced populations, many of whom suffer from one or more forms of malnutrition. Of the 815 million undernourished people in the world, 489 million live in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence. Additionally, 122 million out of the 155 million stunted children in the world reside in conflict-affected countries. For many refugee children around the world, the classroom has become one of the few places where they can feel normal and safe. During crises, school feeding successfully meets basic nutritional needs while getting children back into the classroom. In Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, school feeding programmes are helping Syrian refugee children improve their nutrition and are encouraging parents to send them to school regularly. The meals include fresh fruit, locally-baked snacks and a carton of juice or milk, providing them the energy they need to learn, and teaching them the basics of good nutrition and the importance of balanced meals

Key Statistics

  • 821 million people - approximately 1 in 9 people in the world - were undernourished in 2017. (source)
  • 149 million, more than 1 in 5 children under the age of 5, were stunted in 2018. Globally 49 million children under 5 were affected by wasting, and 40 million were overweight in 2018.  (source)
  • Of the 815 million undernourished people in the world, 489 million live in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence. (source)
  • 122 million out of the 155 million stunted children in the world reside in conflict-affected countries. (source)
  • Undernutrition is associated with around 45% of deaths among children under five, mainly in low and middle-income countries. (source)
  • Malnutrition in all its forms costs society up to US$3.5 trillion per year, with overweight and obesity alone costing US$500 billion per year. (source)
  • School feeding programmes can get children into school and help them stay there. Studies have shown that the programmes can increase enrollment by an average of 9%. (source)
  • At least 368 million pre-primary, primary- and secondary-school children receive food from school meal programs around the world. India now feeds more than 100 million children; Brazil 48 million; China 44 million; and South Africa and Nigeria each feed more than 9 million of their children. In all of these countries, over half of the children that are fed are girls. (source)

 

This collection was developed with the support of Aysha Joan Liagamula Kayegeri, Common Wealth Expert.

Report

2019 The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World

Published by
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
World Food Programme (WFP)
World Health Organization (WHO)
,
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

This report presents the latest estimates on food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition at the global and regional levels. It also presents an in-depth analysis of the impacts of economic slowdowns and downturns on food security and nutrition. 

English
Report

2018 Global Nutrition Report

Published by
Development Initiatives

This report collates existing data, presents new innovations in data and conducts novel data analysis in order to shine a light on the steps needed to end malnutrition in all its forms by 2030. It casts a light on where progress has been made and identifies where major problems still lie – and thus where actions are needed to consolidate progress and fill major gaps.

English
Report

Schools as a System to Improve Nutrition

Published by
United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN)

This discussion paper shows that schools offer a unique opportunity to improve nutrition.Looking at schools as a food system to improve nutrition offers insights into what interventions to implement and combine to ensure the best possible nutrition outcomes for children in schools, their families and their communities, both now and in future.

English
Spanish
French
Arabic
Russian
Chinese (Mandarin)
White Paper

Stepping up school-based food and nutrition education

Published by
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and United Arab Emirates University

This paper is a product of the international expert consultation “Stepping up School-based Food and Nutrition Education: Exploring Challenges, Finding Solutions and Building Partnerships,” developed by FAO in collaboration with the UAEU to develop a shared vision of effective school-based food and nutrition education (SFNE) and its future in low and middle-income countries

English
Book/eBook

Global School Feeding Sourcebook: Lessons from 14 Countries

Published by
World Bank
World Food Programme (WFP)
,
The Partnership for Child Development (PCD)

This Sourcebook is the third analysis of school feeding programs by the World Bank, PCD and WFP. It analyses case studies in fourteen different countries in order to describe the immense diversity of approaches that are used by national programs, and understand the strengths and challenges of implementing national programs at scale.

English
Manual/Handbook/Guide

Home-Grown School Feeding Resource Framework

Published by
World Food Programme (WFP)
,
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

This resource framework is intended as a guidance tool for the design, implementation and monitoring of home-grown school feeding programmes. It aims to exploit the potential of school feeding in alleviating rural poverty by supporting the development of home-grown school feeding (HGSF). 

English
Other

2019 Global Survey of School Meal Programs

Published by
Global Child Nutrition Foundation (GCNF)

The Global Survey of School Meal Programs, conducted by the Global Child Nutrition Foundation (GCNF), will be administered every two to three years, beginning in 2019. The 2019 survey will be used to develop a baseline database on the current state of school feeding programs in all countries of the world (including those with no school feeding activities).

English
Spanish
French
Portuguese
Russian
Chinese (Mandarin)
Arabic
Report

Research on Food Assistance For Nutritional Impact Synthesis Report

Published by
Concern Worldwide
,
Action Against Hunger, ENN, UCL

In a comprehensive literature review published in March 2015, the REFANI consortium partners identified what was currently known about the nutritional impact of cash transfer programmes (CTPs) in food assistance and nutrition programming, as well as the gaps that remain in the existing evidence base.

English
Manual/Handbook/Guide

Guidelines for Implementing Interagency Health and Nutrition Evaluations in Humanitarian Crises

Published by
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

These evaluations examine the impact of health and nutrition interventions on populations affected by a humanitarian crisis. They aim to improve the performance of the health and nutrition sector by identifying gaps and overlaps in programming, and to decrease threats to the lives and health of affected populations.

English
Book/eBook

The Management of Nutrition in Major Emergencies

Published by
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
World Food Programme (WFP)
World Health Organization (WHO)

This manual aims to improve understanding of the nutritional implications of an emergency situation and of the need to include nutrition in plans for emergency preparedness. It defines the nutritional needs of the individuals in emergency situations and offers an overview of the major nutritional deficiency diseases and micronutrient deficiencies likely to be encountered.

English
Manual/Handbook/Guide

UNHCR Nutrition in Camps

Published by
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Food security and nutrition interventions in camps aim to improve the immediate food security and nutritional well-being of refugees, mainly by tackling the immediate and underlying causes of malnutrition. This guideline provides instruction on nutrition provision in camps. 

English
Website

Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition

Published by
Save the Children

This resource centre includes reports, articles and documents from Save the Children's maternal, infant and young child nutrition programs. 

English
Manual/Handbook/Guide

Guidelines for Selective Feeding: The Management of Malnutrition in Emergencies

Published by
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
World Food Programme (WFP)

This revised version is intended as a practical guide to design, implement, monitor and evaluate selective feeding programmes in emergency situations, namely to answer the following key questions:

  • Which type and combination of selective feeding programmes are required?
  • How should each be implemented?
English
Manual/Handbook/Guide

Operational Guidance on Infant Feeding in Emergencies (OG-IFE) Version 3

Published by
IFE Core Group

The OG-IFE aims to provide concise, practical guidance on how to ensure appropriate infant and young child feeding in emergencies. It applies to emergency preparedness, response and recovery worldwide to minimise infant and young child morbidity and/or mortality risks associated with feeding practices and to maximise child nutrition, health and development.

English
French
Spanish
Italian
Japanese
Bahasa Indonesia
Manual/Handbook/Guide

Updates on the Management of Severe Acute Malnutrition in Infants and Children

Published by
World Health Organization (WHO)

This guideline presents the updated evidence and practice for key interventions and will also serve to inform revisions of the manual. It provides global, evidence-informed recommendations on a number of specific issues related to the management of severe acute malnutrition in infants and children. 

English
Advocacy Statement

Child Growth Standards and the Identification of Severe Acute Malnutrition in Infants and Children

Published by
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
World Health Organization (WHO)

This statement presents the recommended cut-offs, summarizes the rationale for their adoption and advocates for their harmonized application in the identification of 6–60 month old infants and children for the management of severe acute malnutrition (SAM). It also reviews the implications on patient load, on discharge criteria and on programme planning and monitoring.

English
Project Brief

Weekly Iron Folate Supplement Program

Published by
US Agency for International Development (USAID)

Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia in adolescence is a major public health issue in Afghanistan, where the prevalence of anemia is among the highest in the world. The Afghan National Nutrition Survey (2013) findings indicate that anemia exists in all age groups and is particularly high among adolescent girls.

English
Journal Article

Vitamin A Supplementation: Who, When and How

Published by
Community Eye Health

This article provides guidelines for vitamin A supplementation in children and women and discusses when it is safe to phase out supplementation. 

English