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.

Why it Matters

Children become wasted when they lose weight rapidly because of diets that do not cover their nutritional needs

Wasting increases the risk of stunted growth, impaired cognitive development and non-communicable diseases in adulthood

Wasting increases the risk of child deaths from infectious diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia and measles

Wasting is linked with the other nutritional targets

Scope of the Problem


children under age five suffer from wasting globally


childhood deaths each year are a result of severe wasting


of children suffering from wasting live in Asia

Recommended Action


Scale-up Treatment

Scale-up coverage of services for the identification and treatment of wasting by improving the identification, measurement and understanding of wasting

Photo credit: Bread for the World


 Improve coordination between key government ministries by linking treatment strategies for acute malnutrition to prevention strategies for wasting and stunting throughout the life-course

Photo credit: Bread for the World

Build the Evidence

Develop evidence for effective prevention strategies by rapidly developing evidence to reduce the burden of wasting, which can then be translated into policy actions


Acute Malnutrition Resources

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