10 Facts About Nutrition in China

While malnutrition remains a problem in China, particularly in rural areas, the country has made much progress in recent decades. Here are 10 things to know about the status of nutrition in China. 

1) An estimated 12.7 million children are stunted, meaning that they are too short for their age due to chronic malnutrition. That’s a population the size of Tokyo. 

2) Location has a big impact on nutritional status. The risk of underweight and stunting is 3-4 times higher for children in rural areas than for those in cities. In 2010, 20 percent of children under 5 living in poor regions were stunted, compared to 5 percent in urban areas. 

3) In 2010, 28 percent of rural children between 6 and 12 months old and 21 percent between 13 and 24 months still suffered from anaemia. 

4) However, the overall situation is improving. China reduced the level of undernourishment in the country from 23.9 percent in 1990-92 to 9.3 percent in 2014-16.

5) Rates of child malnutrition are dropping. From 1990 to 2010, the number of underweight children under 5 fell by 74 percent and rates of stunting dropped by 70 percent. Current levels are lower than most other developing countries. 

Chinese girl eating
Photo: WFP/China

6) China alone accounts for almost two thirds of the total reduction in the number of undernourished people in developing regions since 1990. 

7) Better nutrition has significantly improved the health and quality of life of Chinese children. Mortality in under 5s due to malnutrition dropped from 22 to 13 percent between 2000 and 2010. 

8) Meanwhile overweight and obesity are becoming prominent in cities, and gradually appearing in rural areas: 23 percent of boys and 14 percent of girls under 20 were now found to be overweight or obese. 

9) A reduction in poverty in rural areas and a stable growth of income are helping to improve child nutrition in poorer regions.

10) In March 2016, the Chinese government and the World Food Programme (WFP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (written agreement) to pave the way for other developing countries to draw on China’s own experience on reducing poverty and hunger.

Learn more about hunger and malnutrition from WFP's comprehensive list of Facts About Hunger and Malnutrition.

Sources: UNICEFChina's National Program for Food and Nutrition 2014-2020Nutrition Development Report of Children Aged 0-6, 2012FAOUNThe Lancet.