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Beyond the Economics of Nutrition


Written by Steve Wiggins


I am an agricultural economist and as such there is only one aspect of this subject that I am really equipped to answer, and that is whether or not malnutrition is a medical emergency or a structural problem, and if development policy towards it has failed. Let’s begin by answering that. Where are we in relation to achieving the Millennium Development Goal 1, which is all about halving the proportion of people in hunger between 1990 and 2015? One way of looking at that is to say that in 1990 about 33% of children under five were underweight, and by 2003 that figure had gone down to 28%. But to achieve the target we would have had to be down to 25%. At this rate we would not achieve the target until 2031 and for some regions of the world, such as parts of Africa, the target would not be met until the next century. So we are not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals. The simple statistics that we look at are pretty horrid: 800 million people are on the FAO estimate of under nutrition, 27% of children in the developing world are underweight, 36% in the least developed countries, and something like 2 billion people are suffering from micronutrient deficiency.

Steve Wiggins