Reaching our most vulnerable: wasting co-existing with stunting requires transformation in global response

The 2018 Global Nutrition Report reveals an update on the unacceptable 'new normal' of global malnutrition for our world’s children: 150.8 million children under five are stunted, 50.5 million are wasted and 38.3 million are overweight[i]. What is further concerning is that there are high rates of multiple forms of malnutrition co-existing in the same communities and contexts. 

Almost 16 million children are suffering from stunting and wasting, putting them at a very high risk of death, disease and developmental delays. Together, stunting and wasting are implicated in almost two million deaths each year and account for over 12 percent of disability-adjusted life years lost in children under five[ii]. These children are up to 12 times more likely to die than their well-nourished peers[iii].

While significant progress has been made in reducing child stunting, the same cannot be said for other forms of malnutrition. The number of children suffering from wasting today has barely budged from the 2011 levels of 52 million children.

Faced with the reality that the Sustainable Development Goals of health, nutrition, child survival and economic development would not be realised without greater coordination on ending wasting, No Wasted Lives was launched in 2016. Comprised of governments, UN agencies, civil society organisations and donors, No Wasted Lives is focused on fighting wasting, and driving an unprecedented global movement to scale up prevention, early detection and treatment.

“The 2018 Global Nutrition Report is a sobering, wake-up call that to end malnutrition in all of its forms, we must build a response that reflects the reality,” says Nabeeha Kazi-Hutchins, Executive Director of No Wasted Lives. “Nowhere is this more dire than in the response to wasting where a mere 24 percent of children are currently receiving treatment. And yet, the ability to do more and do better is within reach.”

The momentum and political will for nutrition have continued to grow, but the Report notes that we are still falling short. The Report recognises that having better and more timely data are critical, but just as important is quickly catalysing actions and prioritising efforts that reflect what the data says.

“There has been a shocking lack of progress for wasting, which impedes progress for all forms of malnutrition,” says Amy Mayberry, Head of Evidence for No Wasted Lives. “We must use the evidence we have today to catalyse action, and enable a shift from the current trajectory. Funding is needed to support treatment approaches that can reach more children, more cost-effectively, and we also need to build our knowledge on what works to prevent wasting.”

The Report calls for approaches that work across contexts and can bridge the development and humanitarian divide, to effectively combat all forms of malnutrition. Strengthening the nutrition resilience of communities and countries is the priority, and the current siloed approach to nutrition implementation and funding is far from sufficient. 

“While the burden of malnutrition is unacceptably high, we are now in a position to fight it,” says Dr. Jessica Fanzo, co-chair of the Report and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University. “We have better knowledge and data, and we are seeing innovative initiatives being put in place around the globe. The Global Nutrition Report calls on all stakeholders to leverage this knowledge and act now to address malnutrition.”

Join No Wasted Lives in supporting the calls to action from the 2018 Global Nutrition Report to ensure more and better data is collected, and used to improve policy and programs for all forms of malnutrition, including wasting. We need to prioritise research, policy and implementation actions that bring sectors together to meet our global health, nutrition and development targets by 2030.

[i] Global Nutrition Report 2018

[ii] Black, RE et al. Maternal and child undernutrition: global and regional exposures and health consequences. Lancet (2008).

[iii] Myatt, M et al. Children who are both wasted and stunted are also underweight and have a high risk of death: a descriptive epidemiology of multiple anthropometric deficits from data from 51 countries. Archives of Public Health (2018)

Access the 2018 Global Nutrition Report and country profiles at

Dig into country-level data on acute malnutrition policy, admissions and treatment on