Data value chain,  Survey data

The Case of the Missing Data

The Global Nutrition Report (GNR) is one of the most widely used sources of nutrition data. The GNR reports on progress against global nutrition targets in 194 countries. In October 2019, GNR launched updated Country Nutrition Profiles.

Note: In May 2020, GNR launched the 2020 report. The list of “no data” countries in the 2020 report matches the list shared in October 2019.

Global Nutrition Report - Country Nutrition Profiles 2019

The GNR reports “on course,” “off course,” and “no data” status for countries on ten indicators. The approach for categorization varies by indicator. For under-five stunting, under-five wasting, under-five overweight, and exclusive breastfeeding, a country is categorized as having “no data” if it does not have at least two nationally representative survey estimates since 2008, one of which is dated after 2012 [1]. This criteria is methodology proposed by the WHO-UNICEF Technical Expert Advisory Group on Nutrition Monitoring (TEAM)Comparing the 2019 and 2018 GNR, the number of “no data” countries for these four indicators has decreased.

This blog post explores countries that have “no data” for tracking progress of four indicators: under-five stunting, under-five wasting, under-five overweight, and exclusive breastfeeding. Data for this blog post is available from the GNR website here and UNICEF Data’s collated estimates of child nutrition indicators.

Which countries have “no data” and why does that matter?

More than half of the countries GNR reports on (104 out of 194) have “no data” for tracking progress of all four indicators (under-five stunting, under-five wasting, under-five overweight, and exclusive breastfeeding) analyzed.

A majority of GNR countries with “no data” for tracking progress of these four indicators are upper middle income and high income countries, as classified by the World Bank. Since prevalence of stunting and wasting is generally low in higher income countries, tracking progress for stunting and wasting in these countries may be less of a concern. However, “no data” for tracking progress of under-five overweight and exclusive breastfeeding in these countries is problematic.

There is also some regional variation in “no data” for tracking progress of the four indicators; most of the GNR countries that have “no data” for these indicators are in Europe.

The following maps visualize countries categorized as “no data” for monitoring the four indicators analyzed. Countries are color-coded by income group. Hover over a country to view the last estimate including year and survey source (if available).


The GNR is a key resource for monitoring progress towards global nutrition targets and highlighting existing nutrition data gaps. Flagging cases of “no data” for tracking progress is vital to exposing insufficient nutrition data.

Reducing the number of countries with insufficient data on global nutrition targets is an important dimension of data-driven accountability – a priority area for the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit 2020. More than half of GNR countries are categorized as “no data” for the four indicators reviewed in this blog post: under-5 stunting, under-5 wasting, under-5 overweight, and exclusive breastfeeding. Last estimates for these indicators in some countries categorized as “no data” are poor, which underscores why updated estimates are critically needed. It’s also worth considering novel approaches for filling nutrition data gaps in countries of conflict, where conducting nationally representative household surveys can be a challenge.

[1]. Global Nutrition Report 2018 

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