​Wasting in Children

Evidence Synthesis for the Prevention and Management of Wasting​


Wasting is a form of malnutrition, which makes children too thin for their height.  It not only puts them at a greater risk of poor growth and learning and development, but also makes them more prone to certain diseases that can even lead to death. 

- Global Prevalence

According to the Global Nutrition Report 2021, 45.4 million children under the age of 5 have been affected by wasting, while 13.6 million by severe wasting in 2020. Global trends have observed that Wasting is closely linked to seasonal changes, in that the prevalence varies greatly between pre-harvest and post-harvest seasons. The pre-harvest season is associated with food shortages, heavy rainfall, and related diseases that affect nutrition status, while post-harvest season is associate with higher food availability and favourable weather patterns. 

- Future Actions

There needs to be an urgent action and strategic shift towards few crucial factors. First, curbing poor diet, including maternal poor diet. Key global targets and systematic monitoring exclude diet despite its health and environmental impacts, and do not explicitly address poor diet and diet quality as the underlying cause of malnutrition in all its forms. Mothers’ and women of reproductive age must not only be supported with more accessible nutrition services for themselves, but also made aware of and encouraged to feed their children as per their age requirement. 

Second, the impacts of COVID-19 must be taken into account. COVID-19 has pushed large population globally into extreme poverty, including children and adolescents as one of the vulnerable groups. This has serious implications on diet-related disease and mortality and financing of nutritional targets. 

There is also a dire need to study different categories of interventions and prevention programmes to select and implement the most effective ones. 

Project Objectives 

This project will assess the effectiveness of population-based interventions (e.g., blanket supplementary feeding programmes, nutritional supplementation programmes, and conditional and unconditional cash transfers) compared to targeted population interventions for primary and secondary prevention of wasting in infants and children up to five years of age. 

The outcomes of the project will inform and advocate for an effective global policy for prevention and management of wasting in children under the age of 5. ​​


This is a project of Institute for Global Health and Development (IGHD), Aga Khan University in collaboration with Action Against Hunger and University of Adelaide. It will be implemented through the generous funding from the World Health Organization.

Dr Zulfiqar A Bhutta, Distinguished University Professor and Founding Director, IGHD and Dr Jai K Das, Assistant Professor, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health and Assistant Director, IGHD are lead investigators.