|IFPRI Research Perspectives, Vol. 22, No. 1, Spring 2000 (IFPRI, 2000, 16 p.)|
NUTRITION CHALLENGES FROM THE WOMB TO OLD AGE
In many developing countries malnutrition is a vicious circle that begins before birth, gets transmitted during reproductive stages of life, and lasts into old age, according to a report produced by the United Nations Administrative Committee on Coordination/Sub-Committee on Nutrition (ACC/SCN) in collaboration with IFPRI. Undernourished girls and women give birth to underweight and stunted babies. As these infants grow, they are less able to learn and, eventually, are more likely themselves to be parents to low-birthweight and undernourished babies. As adults, they are less able to generate livelihoods and less well equipped to resist chronic disease in later life.
Built around the theme nutrition throughout the life cycle, the 4th Report on the World Nutrition Situation gives new estimates of the magnitude and distribution of malnutrition at each stage of the human life cycle. It provides the latest information on the size and distribution of the malnutrition problem in developing countries and its consequences for overall economic and human development.
Nutritionists are learning more and more about the effects of micronutrients on human health, and the report describes advances in knowledge and new data on the extent of micro-nutrient deficiencies. While the benefits of breastfeeding are well understood, the report describes developments such as increasing HIV/AIDS and urbanization that can raise questions or difficulties for breastfeeding mothers.
The 4th Report also highlights the importance of nutrition for the overall development process and examines how broad changes on the global stage - financial crisis, globalization, urbanization, the spread of HIV/AIDS, and new information technologies - are affecting nutrition. The new human rights paradigm may help guide policymakers as they develop nutrition policies and programs, the report explains.
Refugees and displaced populations are particularly vulnerable to undernutrition. The report gives an overview of trends in the humanitarian nutritional response to displacement emergencies, presenting six case studies from Africa, Asia, and the Balkans.
The report was released at the 27th session of the ACC/SCN, hosted by the World Bank and UNICEF in Washington, D.C., April 10-14. During a luncheon panel launching the report, Richard Jolly, chairman of the ACC/SCN, said, We now have nutritional data for 65 countries showing trends over recent decades, and we have 'snapshots' of 116 countries. These data show that South America has brought down malnutrition dramatically over the last 20 years, and there has been some improvement in South Asia. But the challenge is bigger in places like Eastern and Southern Africa.
Although data on worldwide nutrition are increasing all the time, the need for still more and better data is urgent, according to Per Pinstrup-Andersen, director general of IFPRI: We still don't have reliable data over time on where the malnourished are and why they are malnourished. I don't see how we will meet our global nutritional goals without this information.
The 4th Report shows that although progress is being made in reducing malnutrition, much remains to be done. Greater long-term investments in fighting malnutrition can make lifelong and intergenerational improvements in the quality of life for billions of people.
The report is available from the ACC/SCN Secretariat, c/o World Health Organization, 20 Avenue Appia, CH 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland; telephone: 41-22-791-04-56; fax: 41-22-798-88-91. This report also can be downloaded from IFPRI at www.cgiar.org/ifpri/pubs/pubs.htm#general.