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19 August, 2019 00:00 00 AM

Global nutrition targets 2025

World Health Organization
Global nutrition targets 2025

Recognizing that accelerated global action is needed to address the pervasive and corrosive problem of the double burden of malnutrition, in 2012 the World Health Assembly Resolution 65.6 endorsed a Comprehensive implementation plan on maternal, infant and young child nutrition, which specified a set of six global nutrition targets that by 2025 aim to:

achieve a 40% reduction in the number of children under-5 who are stunted;

achieve a 50% reduction of anaemia in women of reproductive age;

achieve a 30% reduction in low birth weight;

ensure that there is no increase in childhood overweight;

increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months up to at least 50%;

reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than 5%.


Childhood stunting is one of the most significant impediments to human development, globally affecting approximately 162 million children under the age of 5 years. Stunting, or being too short for one’s age, is defined as a height that is more than two standard deviations below the World Health Organization (WHO) child growth standards median.

It is a largely irreversible outcome of inadequate nutrition and repeated bouts of infection during the first 1000 days of a child’s life. Stunting has long-term effects on individuals and societies, including: diminished cognitive and physical development, reduced productive capacity and poor health, and an increased risk of degenerative diseases such as diabetes.

If current trends continue, projections indicate that 127 million children under 5 years will be stunted in 2025. Therefore, further investment and action are necessary to attain the 2025 World Health Assembly target of reducing that number to 100 million.


Anaemia impairs health and well being in women and increases the risk of maternal and neonatal adverse outcomes. Anaemia affects half a billion women of reproductive age worldwide. In 2011, 29% (496 million) of non-pregnant women and 38% (32.4 million) of pregnant women aged 15–49 years were anaemic.

The prevalence of anaemia was highest in south Asia and central and west Africa. While the causes of anaemia are variable, it is estimated that half of cases are due to iron deficiency.

In some settings, considerable reductions in the prevalence of anaemia have been achieved; however, overall, progress has been insufficient. Further actions are required to reach the World Health Assembly target of a 50% reduction of anaemia in women of reproductive age by 2025.

Low Birth Weight

Low birth weight is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as weight at birth less than 2500 g (5.5 lb). Low birth weight continues to be a significant public health problem globally and is associated with a range of both short- and long term consequences. Overall, it is estimated that 15% to 20% of all births worldwide are low birth weight, representing more than 20 million births a year.

The goal is to achieve a 30% reduction in the number of infants born with a weight lower than 2500 g by the year 2025. This would translate into a 3% relative reduction per year between 2012 and 2025 and a reduction from approximately 20 million to about 14 million infants with low weight at birth.

Childhood Overweight

There has been a dramatic rise in the numbers of children under 5 years of age who are overweight. According to the new 2013 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank estimates (4), between 2000 and 2013, the number of overweight children worldwide increased from 32 million to 42 million. The prevalence of childhood overweight is increasing in all regions of the world, particularly in Africa and Asia.

Between 2000 and 2013, the prevalence of overweight in children under 5 years of age increased from 1% to 19% in southern Africa, and from 3% to 7% in south-east Asia. In terms of regional breakdowns in numbers of overweight children in 2013, there were an estimated 18 million overweight children under 5 years of age in Asia, 11 million in Africa and 4 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Low levels of overweight in children under 5 years of age were observed in the regions of Latin America and the Caribbean, with little change over the last 13 years. Nevertheless, countries with large populations, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and the Plurinational State of Bolivia, observed levels of 7% and higher. If these increasing trends continue, it is estimated that the prevalence of overweight in children under 5 years of age will rise to 11% worldwide by 2025, up from 7% in 2012.


Exclusive breastfeeding – defined as the practice of only giving an infant breast-milk for the first 6 months of life (no other food or water) – has the single largest potential impact on child mortality of any preventive intervention. It is part of optimal breastfeeding practices, which also include initiation within one hour of life and continued breastfeeding for up to 2 years of age or beyond.

Exclusive breastfeeding is a cornerstone of child survival and child health because it provides essential, irreplaceable nutrition for a child’s growth and development. It serves as a child’s first immunization – providing protection from respiratory infections, diarrhoeal disease, and other potentially life-threatening ailments. Exclusive breastfeeding also has a protective effect against obesity and certain noncommunicable diseases later in life.

Yet, much remains to be done to make exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months of life the norm for infant feeding (see Box 1). Globally, only 38% of infants aged 0 to 6 months are exclusively breastfed.

Recent analyses indicate that sub optimal breastfeeding practices, including non-exclusive breastfeeding, contribute to 11.6% of mortality in children under 5 years of age. This was equivalent to about 804 000 child deaths in 2011.


The global target for 2025 will be achieved if high burden countries take stock of their current prevalence, projected population growth, underlying causes of wasting and the resources available to address them; set target annual reduction rates to guide intervention efforts; mobilize necessary resources; and develop and implement systematic plans for the reduction of wasting.

In addition, all countries need to examine inequalities among populations and identify priority actions for particular vulnerable or marginalized groups, where there are clusters of large numbers of wasting children. Such an equity-inspired approach is both an ethical imperative and a judicious investment strategy.

Wasting is a major health problem and, owing to its associated risks for morbidity, requires urgent attention from policy-makers and programme implementers alike. Addressing wasting is of critical importance because of the heightened risk of disease and death for children who lose too much of their body weight.

It will be difficult to continue improving rates of child survival without improvements in the proportion of wasted children receiving timely and appropriate life-saving treatment, alongside reductions in the number of children becoming wasted in the first place (prevention).


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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