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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds Malnutrition is really a very widespread problem, with approximately one out of three people affected by any form of malnutrition. Child stunting, which is measured on children under five, is really low height for age, or shortness. Other forms are what you could call thinness, when children have low weight for their height. But children can also be overweight where their weight is too high. Obviously, we’re more familiar with adult overweight. Also, severe form of adult overweight is adult obesity. And lots of forms of malnutrition, which we are not so familiar with, are micro-nutrient deficiencies because they’re really only very visible in a clinical form, which are extreme forms of micro-nutrient deficiencies.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds Very often, deficiencies in micro-nutrients such as iron cause fatigue, pale skin. But they’re not necessarily associated with malnutrition as such automatically. So different forms of malnutrition. We do have a different causes of malnutrition as well related to food insecurity, sub-optimal caring practises for children, lack of access to quality health services, or people living in unhealthy environments. All of this can lead to diseases, or to inadequate dietary intake directly affecting malnutrition levels. Obviously, this is further supported by the political environment, socio-economic environment, educational environment. So really, causes of malnutrition are multi-sectoral but also inter-generational. We see that a lot of malnutrition is happening during the first two years of the development of the child.

Skip to 1 minute and 58 seconds But very often, when a child is born with low birth weight the child is already malnourished at birth. And this is an outcome of malnutrition during pregnancy. So this critical window of opportunities– which is also referred to as 1000 Days– if we can focus on these groups, population groups, during pregnancy, lactation, and of the child development up to the age of two, there is really good hope that we can reduce under-nutrition of the child. Different population groups are differently affected. Clearly age is important, as I just explained. Looking across the life course, we also need to look at adolescent girl nutrition, because very often young girls are very much exposed to micro-nutrient deficiencies, for example.

Skip to 2 minutes and 50 seconds And when these girls go into pregnancy, malnutrition just continues and, as we just saw, goes also towards the next generation. When we look at households most exposed to malnutrition, obviously, socio-economic factors are very important. We do see that poor households tend to have much higher stunting levels than rich households. And then, other elements that affect vulnerability to malnutrition comes to emergency affected populations, and then also depending on geographic location, ethnicity, and sometimes also related to religious beliefs. The consequences of malnutrition are different in terms of short-term consequences, long-term consequences. Short-term consequence is very much related to mortality, morbidity. Long-term consequences really affect educational outcomes, further leading to reduced revenue.

Skip to 3 minutes and 56 seconds And when we’re talking about high levels of under-nutrition in a population, which classifies as public health concern, national socio-economic indicators such as poverty or economic growth are negatively affected as well. We should not forget problems of overweight. I have so far just mainly covered problems of under-nutrition But problems of overweight and obesity also have more and more impact on costs. Some analysis is happening currently on health care costs, already estimated, for example, in Thailand at 1.5%. But looking at nations that are very much affected by obesity, health care costs can go up to 40% of the entire healthcare budget. Nutrition is, again, at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) after being included in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Skip to 4 minutes and 58 seconds The Sustainable Development Goals are really very important to nutrition. There is one specific target for nutrition, which is under SDG 2.2, ending all forms of malnutrition by 2030. But in fact, nutrition supports outcomes of other Sustainable Development Goals, for example, education and poverty reduction. But also, nutrition can benefit from progress in other sectors as well, as for example, woman empowerment. Therefore, even if nutrition is only visible in one Sustainable Development Goal, in reality it is fairly cross-cutting to almost all of them. So the Sustainable Development Goals for Nutrition there refer to the World Health Assembly targets that were put in in 2012.

Skip to 5 minutes and 45 seconds And they really covered for different types of malnutrition, going from under-nutrition wasting, stunting, anaemia, and low birth weight, but also focusing more and more on overweight. Again, it is very important to take this into account because overweight is on the increase at the global level, very much, and leading to very important non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases.

Malnutrition and the SDGs

Despite progress made in recent decades in food security and nutrition, malnutrition and under-nutrition remain significant problems, particularly within developing countries.

In this video, Katrien Ghoos, of the World Food Programme Regional Bureau of Asia and the Pacific, describes the different forms of malnutrition, who is affected by them, and where the major challenges are. She then discusses the importance of tackling malnutrition within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and highlights which SDGs relate to nutrition.


Think about the major malnutrition trends in your country. They may be linked to micro-nutrient deficiencies, child stunting, overweight and obesity, or other forms of malnutrition. What do you think are the major drivers of these malnutrition trends? What are some of the short-term and long-term impacts of such trends? Think critically to try and identify some indirect impacts that may not be obvious.

The views expressed in this video are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Food Programme (WFP).

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Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia

Stockholm Environment Institute