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Copenhagen Consensus Center

Second Copenhagen Consensus: Hunger and Malnutrition Assessment, Horton Alderman Rivera

Assessment Paper

By Sue Horton, Harold Alderman, and Juan A. Rivera.

The working paper used by the Expert Panel is available for download here, the finalized paper has been published in Global Crises, Global Solutions: Costs and Benefits through Cambridge University Press.

Despite significant reductions in income poverty in recent years, undernutrition remains widespread.  Recent estimates from UNICEF (2006) are that “one out of every four children under five – or 146 million children in the developing world – is underweight for his or her age”, and that “each year, …undernutrition contributes to the deaths of about 5.6 million children under the age of five”.  The undernutrition associated with missing micronutrients in poor quality diets is even more widespread than that indicated by underweight alone.

Undernutrition in turn has negative effects on income and on economic growth.  Undernutrition leads to increased mortality and morbidity which lead to loss of economic output and increased spending on health.  Poor nutrition means that individuals are less productive (both due to physical and mental impairment), and that children benefit less from education.

Reducing undernutrition is one of the Millennium Goals (Goal 1 aims to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger), and is also a key factor underpinning several others. Achieving goals in primary education, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases all depend crucially on nutrition.