The Double Burden of Malnutrition -- a Guest Blog


CARE continues to raise awareness of the challenge we face today in ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms in the face of climate change, conflict, and inequality, particularly gender inequality. These issues are a challenge today, and the challenge is becoming greater in many parts of the world in ways that make it more complex. Malnutrition is far more than not having enough food. A person may be malnourished if she doesn’t receive all the right nutrients in her daily diet. And a person can be malnourished (sometimes referred to as over-nourished) if he is overweight or obese – a significant and growing problem in many countries. In a guest blog, our colleague Jenny Orgle, talks about this emerging challenge and the need for policy to be responsive in addressing it.

The 2017 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World flagged that the rate of obesity in adults doubled between 1980 and 2014. In 2014, over 600 million adults were obese. Today, roughly 41 million children under five are overweight. As leaders gather in Milan (Nutrition for Growth), Abidjan (SUN Global Gathering), and Bonn (UNFCCC COP23), they must ensure that actions and investments address today’s challenges and emerging threats to tackle all forms of malnutrition.

The Double Burden of malnutrition

The rate at which obesity is growing in many middle and lower income countries is faster than the rates of reduction in stunting. Both under and over nutrition impair cognitive development and adversely affect the development of internal organs from birth and in later years.

A significant challenge for addressing the double burden of malnutrition is policy coherence. Within the health and nutrition sector, policy coherence and implementation would ensure that nutrition specific policies and programs support action on all forms of malnutrition. Across sectors, effective policies would result in the creation of consistent incentives for the production and consumption of healthy food, and access to sanitation and education.

Governments need to take leadership for ensuring that the multi-faceted factors that contribute to all forms of malnutrition (both under nutrition and over nutrition) in their various countries are holistically addressed. Fundamental to policy making, is an understanding of the underlying causes of the double burden of malnutrition which encompass socioeconomic status, education, gender and other barriers that affect accessibility to nutritious food. Indeed it requires political will, collaboration and accountability. Civil society has an unquestionable role to play in facilitating partnerships and holding government accountable to nutrition commitments.

CARE is collaborating with our partners to catalyze pledges of support and action that demonstrate our common stand and commitment to ending ‘malnutrition in all its forms’ as stated in Sustainable Development Goal 2. Civil society stands united in this fight, and we look to governments and other donors to rise to the challenge with us. We are committed to working with national governments as well as global and regional platforms to ensure we realize SDG2.

--- Jenny Orgle, Program Director, Nutrition at the Center