|First Report on the World Nutrition Situation (ACC/SCN, 1987, 78 p.)|
This report provides information on trends in nutritional indicators from 1960 to the most recent year available, usually 1985. The data utilized for the estimates are taken from those available to different United Nations agencies (primarily UN Population Division, FAO, WHO, and the World Bank). The report is based on existing data, methods and definitions used by the UN agencies, and aims to provide information on prevalences and trends based primarily on indirect estimates. It is expected that in updating for future reports more emphasis will be given to causal and associated factors.
In most parts of the world, nutrition has improved over the last 25 years (see section 1). Infant and child mortality rates, which summarize many factors, reflect this. However, Sub-Saharan Africa has suffered long-term declining food availability and increased malnutrition; total numbers of infant and child deaths are thought to be still rising, in contrast to most other regions.
The estimates of child nutritional status demonstrate that improvements of the 1970's ceased, on average, in the 1980's. Economic stress, as well as severe drought, have contributed to the overall picture (see Figure 3) of deterioration in Africa, and no significant improvement in South America, the latter contrasting with previous progress. However, proportions of the population estimated as having marginal access to food, referred to for brevity here as "undernourished", are estimated to have fallen in South and South East Asia, Central America and the Near East.
Indicators by groups of countries are shown in panels in section 2. These give trends in population, food production, dietary energy supply, proportions of the population "undernourished" (i.e. estimated to have access to food equivalent to less than 1.2 times basal metabolic rate) and of children malnourished (i.e. of weight-for-age less than 2 standard deviations of reference standards), and infant and child mortality rates. Estimates are also shown in terms of numbers of people affected. The indicators may be contrasted across country groups, by comparing the panels. Selected results - showing for example prevalences of malnutrition reported from clinics in Africa, and changes in food purchasing power in certain Latin America countries - are included.
Trends in the nutrition situation with respect to three of the most common micronutrient deficiencies - vitamin A, iron and iodine - are described in section 3. Of the developing regions, Africa had the highest average availability per caput of vitamin A and iron, but this was falling alarmingly in recent years, and averages hide maldistribution. In contrast, supply of these nutrients has increased rapidly in the Near East. The prevalences and geographical distribution of clinical deficiencies in vitamin A, iron and iodine are summarized in section 3, noting that for all three micro-nutrients mild/moderate deficiencies are becoming recognized as problems with significant consequences for health and welfare. Prevalences of these deficiencies are substantial - for example, about 50% of women of child-bearing age in developing countries are estimated to be anaemic, for which iron deficiency is the commonest cause.
A summary of information on sources of the data used, methods, and definitions is given in the technical notes in section 4. A fuller description will be provided in the Supplement on Methods and Statistics, to be issued in early 1988.