(HealthDay News) – Although some progress has been made toward meeting Millennium Development Goal 1 (MDG 1) in developing countries, the chances of these countries as a whole meeting the goal are <5%.

Gretchen A. Stevens, DSc, from the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, and colleagues estimated country trends in the distribution of children’s anthropometric status, needed to assess undernutrition, and evaluated progress toward MDG 1 using population-representative data on height-for-age Z scores (HAZ) and weight-for-age Z scores (WAZ). Data were collected from health and nutrition surveys and summary statistics were collected from the WHO Global Database and other national and international agencies.

The researchers found that from 1985–2011 the mean HAZ improved from −1.86 to −1.16 and mean WAZ improved from −1.31 to −0.84 in developing countries. The prevalence of moderate-and-severe stunting decreased from 47.2 to 29.9% and the prevalence of underweight decreased from 30.1 to 19.4% during this period. Asia saw the largest absolute improvements, while southern and tropical Latin America experienced the largest relative reductions in prevalence. In 2011, 314 and 258 million children <5 years, respectively, were mildly, moderately, or severely stunted and mildly, moderately, or severely underweight. Although 61 of 141 developing countries have a 50–100% chance of meeting the MDG1 target, developing countries as a whole have <5% chance.

“Unless there are unprecedented improvements in child nutrition in the next few years, more than half of developing countries have <50% chance of meeting the MDG 1 target,” the authors write.

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