Community-based management of severe acute malnutrition
A joint statement
Severe malnutrition is a life threatening condition requiring urgent treatment. Until recently, the recommendation was to refer these children to hospital to receive therapeutic diets along with medical care. The situation changed recently with the advent of highly fortified, ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF) which allows the management in the community of large numbers of children who are severely malnourished without medical complications.
A joint statement was issued in June 2007 by WHO, UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) which promotes community-based care for severe acute malnutrition. It asserts that around three quarters of children with severe acute malnutrition - those who have a good appetite and no medical complications - can be treated at home with RUTF.
It is expected that implementation of community-based interventions on a large scale, along with a strengthening of referral facilities for severely malnourished children with complications, could transform the lives of millions of children. The approach has already greatly improved survival rates for severely malnourished children in emergencies in countries such as Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger. The aim is to expand the approach to reach the larger numbers of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition who live in communities untouched by emergencies.