Globally, 50 million children under the age five are wasted, with 16 million of those estimated to be severely wasted. That is, 1 out of every 13 children in the world is not getting enough calories from food and faces an immediate risk of death.
Wasting occurs when a child rapidly loses body weight as a result of moderate or severe malnutrition, putting a child at increased risk of illness or death. Globally, wasting accounts for 2 million childhood deaths each year. Severely wasted children are, on average, 11 times more likely to die than their healthy counterparts, as wasting is shown to increase the risk of death from infectious diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia and measles. Even higher mortality has been reported when children are both wasted and stunted.
The majority children suffering from wasting live in Asia and just over one quarter of all children live in Africa. It is estimated that less than 15% of wasted children around the world are currently being reached by treatment services, and in some countries this percentage is considerably lower. These statistics are of serious global concern, given the well-established link between wasting and child death.
While the current global wasting rate is 7.5%, in 2012, the World Health Assembly endorsed a global wasting target to reduce and maintain the rate of wasting to 5% or less by 2025.