Prevalence of wasting, weight for height, female (% of children under 5)

Definition: Wasting prevalence is the proportion of children under five whose weight for height is more than two standard deviations below the median for the international reference population ages 0-59.

Description: The map below shows how Prevalence of wasting, weight for height, female (% of children under 5) varies by country. The shade of the country corresponds to the magnitude of the indicator. The darker the shade, the higher the value. The country with the highest value in the world is Sri Lanka, with a value of 20.50. The country with the lowest value in the world is Chile, with a value of 0.20.

Source: World Health Organization, Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition. Country-level data are unadjusted data from national surveys, and thus may not be comparable across countries.

See also: Country ranking, Time series comparison

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Development Relevance: Good nutrition is the cornerstone for survival, health and development. Well-nourished children perform better in school, grow into healthy adults and in turn give their children a better start in life. Well-nourished women face fewer risks during pregnancy and childbirth, and their children set off on firmer developmental paths, both physically and mentally (UNICEF www.childinfo.org). Undernourished children have lowered resistance to infection and are more likely to die from common childhood ailments like diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections. Frequent illness saps the nutritional status of those who survive, locking them into a vicious cycle of recurring sickness and faltering growth (UNICEF www.childinfo.org). The proportion of underweight children is the most common malnutrition indicator. Being even mildly underweight increases the risk of death and inhibits cognitive development in children. It perpetuates the problem across generations, as malnourished women are more likely to have low-birth-weight babies. Stunting, or being below median height for age, is often used as a proxy for multifaceted deprivation and as an indicator of long-term changes in malnutrition. Once considered a high-income country problem, overweight children have become a growing concern in developing countries. Research shows an association between childhood obesity and a high prevalence of diabetes, respiratory disease, high blood pressure, and psychosocial and orthopedic disorders (de Onis and Blössner 2000). Childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death and disability in adulthood. In addition to increased future risks, obese children experience breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects. Children in low- and middle-income countries are more vulnerable to inadequate pre-natal, infant and young child nutrition. At the same time, they are exposed to high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt, energy-dense, micronutrient-poor foods, which tend to be lower in cost. These dietary patterns, in conjunction with low levels of physical activity, result in sharp increases in childhood obesity while undernourishment issues remain unsolved (WHO).

Statistical Concept and Methodology: Estimates of child malnutrition, based on prevalence of underweight, stunting, wasting and overweight, are from national survey data. Height is measured by recumbent length for children up to two years old and by stature while standing for older children. New international growth reference standards for infants and young children were released in 2006 by the World Health Organization (WHO) to monitor children's nutritional status. Differences in growth to age 5 are influenced more by nutrition, feeding practices, environment, and healthcare than by genetics or ethnicity. The previously reported data were based on the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics-WHO growth reference. Because of the change in standards, the data in this edition should not be compared with data in editions prior to 2008. Estimates for regions, income groups, and the world are jointly produced by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the WHO, and the World Bank using a harmonized database and aggregation method (UNICEF, WHO, and World Bank 2012). Country-level data used in aggregation are compiled by the WHO from national nutritional surveys following specific criteria for inclusion, data quality control and database work-flow. The aggregation utilizes a linear mixed-effect model allowing for random effects at country level and fixed effects for the interaction between years and regions or income groups. Moreover, the linear mixed-effect model allows for both correlation within countries and heterogeneous covariance structures. For more details about the aggregation methodology, please refer to the methodology paper by de Onis, et al. (2004).

Aggregation method: Linear mixed-effect model estimates

Periodicity: Annual