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Home / news / Africa ‘set to miss UN development goal on malnutrition’.

Africa ‘set to miss UN development goal on malnutrition’.

One heat map from the study shows the percentage of children classed as moderately or severely underweight (MSU) in each pixel in 2000One ‘heat map’ from the study shows the percentage of children classed as moderately or severely underweight (MSU) in each pixel in the year 2000

Exceptionally detailed maps of child growth and education across Africa suggest that no single country is set to end childhood malnutrition by 2030.

That target was set by the UN as a Sustainable Development Goal.

However, the new maps, which give detail to the level of an individual village, show that almost every nation has at least one region where children’s health is improving.

They are published in Nature.

The two studies have mapped child growth rates and educational attainment for women of reproductive age – tracking progress in both in 51 countries between 2000 and 2015. The scientists targeted these two factors in particular because they are important predictors of child mortality.

« Together, these are very useful indicators of where populations are doing well and where they’re being left behind, » explained Prof Simon Hay, a global health researcher from the University of Washington in the US.

Prof Hay and his team pieced together data from community-level surveys and produced a series of 5km by 5km scale maps, showing child growth and educational attainment across Africa over the 15-year span of the study.

‘Stark disparities’

This revealed that most African countries, especially much of sub-Saharan Africa and eastern and southern regions, show improvement in malnutrition.

They also showed large disparities within individual countries. But by mapping these in such detail, scientists say policymakers will have the evidence to direct their resources.

Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former secretary general of the UN, endorsed this aim in an article he wrote in response to the maps’ publication. « Without good data, » he wrote, « we’re flying blind. If you can’t see it, you can’t solve it. »

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