The prevalence of malnutrition in the world
Despite many technological, sanitary and economical progresses, the prevalence of malnutrition among children remains alarmingly high in the world, especially in developing countries and in those going through a crisis (food, economical, political, climatic, etc.). Malnutrition can result in various outcomes, such as stunting, wasting, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies. It is estimated that every third person is affected by one form of malnutrition (Global Nutrition Report 2016).
Worldwide, approximately 3.1 million children die per year due to poor nutrition (FAO 2015). One in four children under 5 years of age is stunted, one in fourteen is underweight, and one in twenty is overweight (Global Nutrition Report 2016).
The difficulty of height and weight measurements
Measuring the height and weight of children is essential to assess the prevalence of malnutrition and subsequently deploy adequate interventions. However, although this seems an easy task, it is challenging in reality:
- The places where the children are the most at risk of malnutrition are often hard to reach;
- The measurement material is expensive, heavy, bulky, difficult to procure and need to be regularly calibrated;
- The measures are time-consuming and difficult to make correctly;
- The personnel is often already overloaded with tasks and not always trained well enough;
- The children are stressed by the measurement procedures;
- Errors can occur at various stages of the procedure (measurement errors, calculation errors, reporting errors, etc.);
- From the moment between the actual measurements and until the data is entered in a computer and sent to a database for aggregation and analysis, a lot of time goes by.