Global Health Observatory (GHO) data

Chronic malnutrition in children


Globally, malnutrition among under-five children is less common in urban areas, compared with rural areas. Yet, these urban averages mask substantial differences within cities. The prevalence of stunting (moderate or severe) among the poorest 20% urban children is four times greater than among the richest 20% urban children in the Americas (including eight countries). In other regions, too, children in the poorest urban households are 2–3 times as likely to be stunted as children in the richest urban households. Children in the poorest households are not the only ones prone to malnutrition; in general, the middle classes also suffer more from childhood stunting than the richest families. The risk of chronic malnutrition increases progressively as family wealth declines.


There has been limited progress in reducing chronic childhood malnutrition – moderate or severe stunting – especially in Africa in urban areas between 1990–1999 and 2000–2011. In fact, in Africa, children in the poorest 20% urban households have only witnessed a marginal decrease in stunting rates from 43% to 40% between the 1990–1999 and 2000–2011. Although there has been a 14% decrease in stunting rates for children in the poorest urban 20% households in Asia between the two decades, stunting rates remain high at 42% for these poorest urban children.


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