1. Malnutrition remains the single largest cause of child mortality. Over one-third of all child deaths are due to malnutrition, mostly from increased severity of disease. Malnourished children who survive tend to start school late, are more likely to drop out, and have lower adult earnings. The resulting compromised human capital means that malnutrition robs many developing countries of at least 2-3% of economic growth. Investments targeted between pregnancy until two years of age are most desirable because they target the most vulnerable, and prevent irreparable damage to human capital.
2. Economic growth alone does not solve malnutrition. Poverty is an undeniably significant factor in child malnutrition, but in many high-burden countries, malnutrition rates are much higher than in other countries with similar national income. At the household level, in many countries malnutrition rates are surprisingly high even in the wealthiest quintile of households. These facts indicate that concerted efforts must be taken to reduce malnutrition; income growth does not automatically solve the problem.
3. Investing in nutrition is cost-effective. Despite the availability of relatively simple and extremely cost-effective interventions to address malnutrition, very few countries effectively implement these proven interventions at scale. Two kinds of investments are needed. Nutrition-specific interventions include, for example, breastfeeding promotion, vitamin and mineral supplements, and deworming. Nutrition-sensitive development across many sectors is also necessary to ensure that development agendas fully utilize their potential to contribute to reductions in malnutrition.
The Nutrition Country Profiles were created to inspire action and investment in nutrition in the high-burden countries to reduce child and maternal mortality, and to improve the economic potential of nations.
The country nutrition profiles were developed in collaboration with regional staff and country offices. This work was made possible by the generous support of the Government of Japan through the Scaling Up Nutrition trust fund and the World Bank’s Regional Reprioritization Fund.