Corinna Hawkes, co-chairperson of the report, said: “The figures call for immediate action. Malnutrition is responsible for more ill health than any other cause. The health consequences of overweight and obesity contribute to an estimated four million deaths globally.
“The uncomfortable question is not so much ‘why are things so bad?’ but ‘why are things not better when we know so much more than before?’ ”
Globally, stunting among children under five has fallen from 32.6% in 2000 to 22.2% in 2017, but SA’s rate is 27.4%.
The data shows an overall increase in both overweight and obesity in Africa at the same time as the region experiences significant growth in consumption of packaged foods, most of which are nutritionally deficient.
Eating unhealthy food, or not having enough food — including children unable to breastfeed — contribute to widespread malnutrition. “Diets are one of the top risk factors of morbidity and mortality in the world — more than air pollution, more than smoking,” said Jessica Fanzo, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in the US and a lead author.
“What we’re eating is killing us. So something needs to get us back on track with our food system.”
She said a lack of knowledge and affordability of nutritious food, as well as ineffective supply chains, were among the factors that contribute to poor diets.