2018 Global Nutrition Report: Shining a light to spur action on nutrition


The 2018 Global Nutrition Report lists malnutrition as the world’s number one cause of ill health. The report is researched and written by the chairs of the Independent Expert Group (IEG) of the Global Nutrition Report. The group includes academics, researchers and government representatives from around the world. A Stakeholder Group, with members of government, donor organisations, citizens, multilateral organisations and the business sector, guided the report’s development and nominated members to the IEG.

Since 2014, the report has tracked the global progress on nutrition targets, ranging from diet-related non-communicable diseases to maternal, infant and child nutrition. The report analyses data on the malnutrition burden, the impact of diet on malnutrition, financing action for better nutrition, and global commitments to fighting malnutrition. Specifically, it provides information on eight nutrition indicators: high blood pressure, obesity, overweight and anaemia among adults; stunting, wasting and overweight among children as well as their salt intake. The report also examines the impact of micronutrient deficiencies, conflict and violence, and adolescent malnutrition on girls and young women.

Finally, the report recommends five critical steps to speed up the process of addressing malnutrition globally. They include breaking down the silos between different kinds of malnutrition; prioritising data collection about malnutrition; increasing nutrition financing; ensuring healthy, affordable and accessible diets; and delivering on commitments to end malnutrition.


  1. Poor diets account for 18.8 per cent of all deaths worldwide.
  2. In 2016, non-communicable diseases caused 41 million of the total of 57 million deaths, and diet was one of the four leading risk factors.

  3. Every year, malnutrition causes 45 per cent of deaths among children under five years of age across the world. Overweight or excess weight and obesity cause around 4 million deaths and the loss of 120 million healthy years of life.

  4. Around 150.8 million (22.2 per cent) of all children globally under 5 years are stunted, 50.5 million are wasted, 38.3 million are overweight, and 20 million newborns have low birth weight (less than the 2.5 kilos standard specified by the World Health Organisation). 

  5. Three countries have almost half the world’s stunted children: India has 46.6 million, Nigeria 13.9 million and Pakistan 10.7 million. Most of the wasted children (low weight for height) live in India (25.5 million), followed by Nigeria (3.4 million) and Indonesia (3.3 million).

  6. India accounts for almost a third (31 per cent) of the world’s stunted children, as documented in district-level data from the National Family Health Survey 4 (2015-16).

  7. According to a Brookings Institution study, 660 million people will still be undernourished in 2030. Over 100 million children under 5 years will be stunted, 40 million will be wasted, and over 90 million children between 2 and 4 years will be overweight.

  8. Global data shows that 42.4 per cent of all newborns are given breast milk within the first hour of birth. Around 40.7 per cent of babies are exclusively breastfed up to the age of 6 months, and 45.1 per cent of children between 20 and 23 months get breast milk.

  9. Worldwide, 15.6 per cent of children aged 6-24 months get the minimal diet specified by the WHO. 68.5 per cent of infants (6-8 months) eat solid food and 51.2 per cent of children (6-24 months) do not get the recommended minimum number of meals daily.

  10. 32.8 per cent of the world’s women (aged 15-49) are anaemic. Among women over 18 years, 38.9 per cent are overweight and 13.1 per cent are obese.

  11. 422 million people are diabetic and as many as 1.1 billion suffer from high blood pressure.

  12. India is one of 26 countries (of a total of 141) considered ‘burdened’ by two malnutrition indicators: anaemia and stunting. That is, the prevalence of anaemia among women of reproductive age (15-49 years) in India is greater than acceptable cut-off levels (20 per cent), as is the prevalence of stunting among children under 5 years (more than 20 per cent).

  13. According to the 2017 World Bank Investment Framework, US$ 7 billion is needed to deliver nutrition services to help achieve global targets for stunting, anaemia and breastfeeding by 2025, and to enable scaling up worldwide treatment for wasting.

  14. At the Nutrition for Growth (N4G) summit in 2013, 10 donors pledged a total of US$ 19.6 billion by 2020 to combat malnutrition and cumulatively disbursed US$ 21.8 billion between 2013 and 2016. In 2017, donors pledged an additional US$ 640 million.

    Focus and Factoids by Abizar Shaikh.

    PARI Library's health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.


Independent Expert Group of the Global Nutrition Report

Co-chairs: Jessica Fanzo, Corinna Hawkes and Emorn Udomkesmalee


Development Initiatives Poverty Research Ltd., Bristol, U.K.


02 Nov, 2018