Community management of acute malnutrition in the developing world

Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2012 Dec;15(4):210-9. doi: 10.5223/pghn.2012.15.4.210. Epub 2012 Dec 31.


Globally, acute malnutrition triggers more than 50% of childhood mortality in children under 5 years old, which implies that about 3.5 million children die of malnutrition each year. Prior to the advent of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), the management of acute malnutrition was limited to hospitals, resulting in low coverage rates with high mortality, as malnourished cases were indentified at later stages often plagued with complications. However, current availability of RUTF has enabled malnourished children to be treated at communities. Further, because RUTF is dehydrated and sealed, it has the added advantage of a lower risk of bacterial contamination, thereby prolonging its storage life at room temperature. Recent data indicate that Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) is as cost effective as other high-impact public health measures such as oral rehydration therapy for acute diarrheal diseases, vitamin A supplementation, and antibiotic treatment for acute respiratory infections. Despite the high efficacy of CMAM programs, CMAM still draws insufficient attention for global implementation, suggesting that CMAM programs should be integrated into local or regional routine health systems. Knowledge gaps requiring further research include: the definition of practical screening criteria for malnourished children at communities, the need for systematic antibiotic therapy during malnutrition treatment, and the dietary management of severe malnutrition in children below 6 months of age.

Keywords: Community Management of Acute Malnutrition; Developing countries; Ready-to-use therapeutic food; Severe acute malnutrition.

Publication types

  • Review