2020 Global Nutrition Report

12 May 2020. The Global Nutrition Report (GNR) is the world’s leading independent assessment of the

state of global nutrition. We provide the best available data, in-depth analysis and expert opinion rooted in evidence to help drive action on nutrition where it is urgently needed.

A multi-stakeholder initiative comprised of global institutions, the GNR is led by experts in the field of nutrition. The GNR was established in 2014 following the first Nutrition for Growth summit, as an accountability mechanism to track progress against global nutrition targets and the commitments made to reach them.
  • Through a comprehensive report, interactive Country Nutrition Profiles and Nutrition for Growth Commitment Tracking, the GNR sheds light on the burden of malnutrition and highlights progress and working solutions to tackle malnutrition around the world.
  • The 2020 Global Nutrition Report brings together the best-available data on malnutrition, proposing a new analysis that goes beyond global and national patterns to reveal significant inequalities within countries and populations. As ever, the 2020 report presents the most comprehensive picture of the state of nutrition at the global, regional, and country level, and tracks progress against global nutrition targets and the commitments made to reach them.

The 2020 report focuses on equity and unpacks the role of inequities in ending malnutrition in all its forms. Through this lens, the report reveals the challenges and opportunities for improving nutrition outcomes by tackling injustices in food and health systems, supported by strong financing and accountability.

Although the 2020 Global Nutrition Report was written before the current coronavirus pandemic, its emphasis on nutritional well-being for all, particularly the most vulnerable, has a heightened significance in the face of this new global threat. The need for more equitable, resilient and sustainable food and health systems has never been more urgent.

The report was made possible through funding from the BMGF, the EC, the government of Canada, BMZ), Irish Aid, DFID and USAID. 

The report was released during an online global launch on Tuesday 12th May.

Main message from the Executive summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the weakness of food and health systems, disproportionately impacting already vulnerable populations. As inequalities and malnutrition continue to sweep the world, the 2020 Global Nutrition Report stresses that the need to address malnutrition in all its forms by tackling injustices in food and health systems is now more urgent than ever.

Progress is too slow and uneven. One in nine people are still hungry or undernourished, while 149 million children under 5 years of age are still affected by stunting globally. Meanwhile, our world has transitioned to one in which more people of all ages are obese than underweight, with one in three people either overweight or obese. 

Despite these figures, countries are often unprepared to face the global nutrition crisis. Strong government coordination on nutrition is often lacking; lower income countries tend to deprioritise overweight, obesity and diet-related chronic diseases. Financial commitments also don’t match the scale and nature of the issue: increases in domestic resources for nutrition have been marginal at best, and obesity and overweight have been largely ignored in aid allocations.

Global and national patterns hide significant inequalities within countries and populations, with vulnerable groups being the most affected. The Report found clear links between levels of malnutrition and population characteristics like location, age, sex, education and wealth, while conflict and other forms of fragility compound the problem. Differences across communities and at the sub-national level are striking: wasting in children under 5 years of age can be up to nine times higher between communities within countries, four times for stunting, and three times for overweight and obesity1. If no action is taken, the effects of the pandemic will only make it harder for vulnerable populations to protect themselves against malnutrition. Malnutrition affects our immune system, leaving us more susceptible to infection, and the socio-economic impact of the pandemic could in turn drive malnutrition globally.

The Report calls for a change in food systems

  • According to the Report, existing agriculture systems still focus on staple grains like rice, wheat and maize, rather than producing a broader range of more diverse and healthier foods, such as fruits, nuts and vegetables.
  • Fresh or perishable foods are less accessible and affordable in many parts of the world compared to staple grains. In Burkina Faso, egg calories are 15 times more expensive than calories from staples, whereas they are 1.9 times more expensive in the United States.
  • Processed foods, especially ultra-processed food, are available, cheap and intensively marketed, with sales high and growing fast in many parts of the world.2 In sub-Saharan Africa, the growth of supermarket chains is diminishing the role of informal traders and has affected people’s food choices. These changes demand policy and planning resources to promote desirable nutrition outcomes.

Solutions have started to emerge across the world and are being implemented by a fast-growing number of countries such as India, Nigeria, Peru and Thailand, among others. These include: increased public investment for healthier food products, support for shorter supply chains for fresh-food delivery programmes, use of fiscal instruments such as taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (now in 73 countries), limiting advertising of junk food, and food reformulation, or the use of front-of-pack labelling to inform consumers and influence industry behaviour adopted by Chile and the UK. However, much more remains to be done.

Universal Health Coverage: an opportunity to make nutrition care universally available as a basic, live-saving and cost-effective health service. Malnutrition in all its forms has become the leading cause of poor health and death, and the rapid rise of diet-related chronic diseases is putting an immense strain on health systems. But despite this assessment, nutrition actions only represent a minuscule portion of national health budgets although they can be highly cost-effective or even cost-saving solutions. The recent Transformation of Aspirational Districts initiative in India is one example of successful integration and delivery of equitable nutrition services as part a broader healthcare transformation effort.

In most countries, health checks do not cover diet quality and national surveys rarely comprehensively assess diets and the nutritional status of populations. The distribution of trained nutrition professionals is inequitable, and these experts are not widely accessible. Globally, the median number of nutrition professionals stands at 2.3 per 100,000 people, 0.9 per 100,000 people in Africa, and some countries have none.

Good nutrition is an essential defence strategy to protect populations against epidemics, relieve the burden on our health systems and ultimately save lives. The findings of the 2020 Global Nutrition Report make clear that tackling malnutrition should be at the centre of our global health response.


Forthcoming event
21 July 2020. 10:00-11:00 am CEST. Choice Webinar


Thirteen years ago, Choices International started as a foundation to promote a healthy choice logo to

help prevent overweight and non-communicable diseases. While this has remained unchanged, over the years, it became clear that much more is needed. Stand-alone nutrition interventions gave way to a food systems approach, in which different policies are aligned to generate optimal impact. 


From FOP labelling to taxation, from school feeding to policy evaluation. Choices has acknowledged this development and has been working for the last year on how to adopt this approach. The result is a new comprehensive Choices strategy to enlarge its impact by working in a different way.

Related: 

Agriculture and Food Policies for Better Nutrition Outcomes in Africa.
The African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) held its twenty second senior policy seminar on March 09-10 at the Hilton Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria.


Read the full report: AERC Senior Policy Seminar XXII (2 pages)

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