Healthcare IT

Which Countries Suffer Most from Malnutrition?

28 Mar, 2024 | Statistics

Malnutrition affects millions of people worldwide, existing in various ways, from undernourishment to overweight and obesity. Up to 828 million people experience chronic hunger and are unsure of where their next meal will come from. Tragically, over 1.6 million children are expected to suffer from malnutrition in 2024, with South Sudan's children among the most severely affected.

Challenges and trends

Malnutrition has considerably more effects than just hunger. It covers a wide range of medical conditions, such as insufficient intake of vitamins and minerals, which can lead to noncommunicable diseases associated with food. Shockingly, nearly half of all deaths in children under five are attributed to undernutrition, with stunting being the prevalent issue. Stunting, in particular, can have long-term consequences on cognitive development and educational attainment, perpetuating cycles of poverty.

Women and girls are more severely impacted by hunger because of higher biological, social, and behavioral risk factors. The differences in the impacts of malnutrition are striking. 32.1 percent of men and 47.4% of women worldwide suffer from malnutrition. Additionally, the economic effects of hunger on nations are significant, and they extend beyond the person. The World Bank estimates that undernutrition alone could cost a nations economy up to US$3 trillion annually.

Though there has been significant progress in the fight against undernutrition, especially in terms of lower rates of stunting, the overall pattern is concerning. The prevalence of adult obesity and overweight in children under five is rising, which presents serious problems for public health systems around the globe. The economic effects of hunger intensify these problems as nations deal with high healthcare expenses and lost production due to understaffed labor markets.

Affected nations and economic burdens

Of all the countries facing the terrible problem of hunger and malnutrition, some have been more severely impacted than others. With an index of 42.3, the Central African Republic is the most affected. Madagascar comes in second with an index of 41, followed closely by Yemen in third place with a score of 39.9. Moreover, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Niger, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, and Liberia are also among the nations most severely impacted by hunger and malnourishment.

Besides, research indicates that in the most affected countries, the economic impact of malnutrition ranges from 2 to 16 percent of GDP. For instance, in India, the expenses associated with malnutrition amount to around 12% of GDP, with substantial contributions coming from lost productivity and direct medical expenses. Similarly, the annual cost of treating issues connected to malnutrition drives healthcare costs by billions in high-income nations like the Netherlands.

Additionally, food wastage, which accounts for around one-third of all food lost or wasted worldwide yearly, worsens malnutrition. This not only represents a significant economic loss but also has severe impacts on climate change and food security. The world spends $3.9 billion annually on nutrition, but the World Bank estimates that double this amount is needed to meet global nutrition targets over the next decade.

A thorough and coordinated approach is necessary to address the complex issues surrounding malnutrition. Investments in nutrition-sensitive interventions, from encouraging sustainable farming practices to expanding access to nutrient-dense food, must be given top priority by governments, international organizations, and civil society. To guarantee food security for everybody, improving food distribution systems and minimizing food waste is critical.

Malnutrition must be addressed with an integrated approach that includes permanent solutions focused on sustainable agriculture, healthcare, education, and acute food aid.

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