Malnutrition is a major global development challenge. SDG2 aims to end by 2030 all forms of malnutrition, including wasting, stunting, overweight and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Childhood wasting contributes to increased mortality, morbidity, impaired intellectual development, increased risk of disease in adulthood and suboptimal adult work and earning capacity.  It is estimated that 49 million children under the age of 5 (U5) suffered from wasting in 2018.  Of those, approximately 33 million suffered from moderate wasting, while some 16.5 million suffered from severe wasting.  More than two thirds of all wasted children under 5 lived in Asia (33.8 million) and more than one quarter lived in Africa (14 million). 

The World Health Assembly has set a target to reduce and maintain wasting to less than 5% by 2025, on the way to full elimination by 2030. However, the prevalence of childhood wasting has been declining in a negligible way (down from 7.8% in 2012).  A substantial increase in efforts would therefore be needed. 

The prevention and treatment of wasting and the reduction of mortality linked to wasting will require a multipronged approach, including prevention of low birth weight (LBW) and wasting in infancy and early childhood, early identification of wasting before children develop medical complications and before their nutritional status deteriorates, and scaling up treatment of wasted children.  Currently, there is little understanding on the pathophysiology of wasting at the moderate end of the spectrum of wasting and the groups of infants and children at highest risk of mortality. There is also a need to identify the existing gaps in the guidance and implementation, to identify the research needed to address these gaps and to agree on what evidence is needed to be able to make recommendations to support governments in preventing and treating wasting.

World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and World Food Programme (WFP) is convening a technical consultation on the prevention and treatment of wasting, to review the technical framing of wasting,  to discuss how to identify children at highest at risk of mortality and morbidity,  to identify needs for additional guidance on prevention and treatment, as an input to the development of a UN Global Action Plan on Wasting.

Objectives of the meeting

  • To develop the basis for an updated technical framing of wasting and agree on key questions on the prevention and treatment of wasting. 
  • To discuss the evidence and remaining gaps on interventions.
  • To agree on the processes to address these gaps and propose key themes for the Global Action Plan
    on Wasting.

Outcomes of the meeting

  • Information for developing an updated technical framing of wasting.
  • Identification of key questions/issues on the prevention and treatment of wasting.
  • Identification of evidence and research gaps.
  • Information on key themes to inform the Global Action Plan on Wasting and required commitments. 

Key topics for discussion

  • Pathophysiology of wasting
  • Epidemiology of wasting – geographic differences in prevalence, patterns and associations
  • Risk factors and outcomes of children with wasting
  • Wasting in infants less than 6 months of age
  • Treatment of wasting – dietary, medical and behavioral interventions
  • Prevention of wasting – scope of interventions