|First Report on the World Nutrition Situation (ACC/SCN, 1987, 78 p.)|
One of the responsibilities assigned to the Sub-Committee on Nutrition of the United Nations Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC/SCN), when established in 1977, was to regularly review the evolution of global nutrition problems. Responding to this mandate has now become feasible, due to improving availability of data, and to two developments in particular. First, FAO has for many years accumulated and issued the only comprehensive source of data on food availability, yearly for almost all countries, namely the "Food Balance Sheet" data; periodically these and other data are used to define the world food problem, through the series of World Food Surveys. Now the Fifth World Food Survey (FAO, 1987a) has been issued, giving a fundamental point of reference for assessing nutrition problems. Second, the conduct of national surveys of nutritional status, measured by anthropometry, has accelerated in the last decade: a WHO review in 1974 identified only 6 such surveys in the previous ten years; by 1982 more than 20 national surveys had been carried out - many with support from USAID - and by 1987 WHO was able to compile data from nearly 50 national surveys done since 1975, and to produce the results in consistent format (WHO, 1987). Together with the established work of the UN Population Division and the World Bank, the information thus available from member agencies of the SCN has now made it possible to assemble and integrate data describing the world nutrition situation, thereby meeting one of the key objectives originally set for the Sub-Committee on Nutrition.
The Advisory Group on Nutrition of the SCN, which had recommended that a Report on the World Nutrition Situation should be issued on a regular basis, proposed in 1986 indicators and methods relying on standard practice by the concerned UN Agencies. This was agreed by the SCN as a whole at its 12th Session in April 1985. The overall objectives of the report are to provide an agreed basis for raising awareness of malnutrition - its extent, severity and trends - to advocate that increased attention be given to preventing this extensive and serious human problem. The report, through the indicators and their interpretation, should demonstrate the inter-sectoral nature of the problem, and thus the need for concerted and coordinated efforts to tackle it. This should be regularly updated. Finally, this information should then be set against estimates of the flow of available resources for addressing nutrition problems, as a basis for assessing the adequacy and utilization of these.
This First Report on the World Nutrition Situation represents a shared concern of the UN member agencies of the ACC/SCN. It uses data and indicators from throughout the UN system to focus on prevalence of malnutrition and its trends. The document has been reviewed by representatives of FAO, WHO and UNICEF, by members of the Advisory Group on Nutrition, and by independent consultants, as agreed by the SCN 13th Session in March 1987 when a first draft of the report was made available.
Finally, this report should provide the basis for periodically updating our knowledge of trends in the world nutrition situation. At the same time, resource flows relevant to nutrition will now be assessed. Comments and suggestions for additional information in future issues would be welcome, in line with our priority to provide up-to-date information on the global picture of nutrition.