SDG target: End all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally agreed-upon targets on stunting and wasting in children under five. Target shown on chart is provisional and has been extrapolated based on existing 2025 target.
Goalkeepers measures progress on nutrition by tracking stunting (low height for age), a manifestation of chronic malnutrition. As the word “chronic” makes clear, stunting does not happen overnight—it compounds over weeks and months. When it comes to COVID, therefore, stunting is a lagging indicator whose impact we may not see for a year or more. The longer families suffer from food insecurity and spotty access to basic health services, the worse COVID’s impact on stunting could eventually be.
If we were to look at other nutrition indicators, we’d see that the pandemic is already doing great harm. Wasting (low weight for height) is a manifestation of acute malnutrition—and its prevalence is spiking right now. A recent Lancet study found that wasting could account for up to one-quarter of all COVID-related childhood deaths.