Africa is set to miss the United Nations development goal number 2 which aims at ending all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030, making sure all people – especially children – have access to sufficient and nutritious food all year round on malnutrition.
Exceptionally detailed maps of child growth and education across Africa suggest that no single country is set to end childhood malnutrition by 2030.
That target was set by the UN as a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).
However, the new maps, which give detail to the level of an individual village, show that almost every nation has at least one region where children’s health is improving.
They are published in Nature.
The two studies have mapped child growth rates and educational attainment for women of reproductive age – tracking progress in both in 51 countries between 2000 and 2015.
The scientists targeted these two factors in particular because they are important predictors of child mortality.
Professor Simon Hay, a global health researcher from the University of Washington in the US said; “Together, these are very useful indicators of where populations are doing well and where they’re being left behind”.
Professor Hay and his team pieced together data from community-level surveys and produced a series of 5km by 5km scale maps, showing child growth and educational attainment across Africa over the 15-year span of the study.
This revealed that most African countries, especially much of sub-Saharan Africa and eastern and southern regions, show improvement in malnutrition.
They also showed large disparities within individual countries but by mapping these in such detail, scientists say policymakers will have the evidence to direct their resources.
Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former secretary general of the UN, endorsed this aim in an article he wrote in response to the maps’ publication; “Without good data,” he wrote, “we’re flying blind. If you can’t see it, you can’t solve it.”
While highlighting what he called “stark disparities” in progress, particularly in conflict-affected areas, Mr Annan said the progress in Africa that these maps painted was “astonishing”.
“They are another tool in our arsenal,” he said adding that; “Alone, they won’t eradicate malnutrition but they will enable Africa’s leaders to act strategically..”.
Progress in Africa has never before been mapped in this level of detail and Professor Hay said that making the data openly available and providing “the best information we can” would help to direct resources towards the populations most in need.