Severe acute malnutrition during emergencies: burden management, and gaps

Food Nutr Bull. 2014 Jun;35(2 Suppl):S47-51. doi: 10.1177/15648265140352S107.


Natural and man-made disasters, including floods, droughts, earthquakes, and armed conflicts, create nutrition crises. Unfortunately, the frequency and severity of such disasters have been increasing since the beginning of the 20th century, and their contribution to the burden of acute malnutrition is increasing every year. However, their contribution to the burden of acute malnutrition is underrecognized due to the ways in which global statistics are built and causes of death are reported. Fortunately, the success of the current protocol for treatment of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and the integrated approach to treatment has created a momentum allowing expanded coverage of treatment of SAM, especially in humanitarian emergency contexts. For this progress to be maintained and accelerated, changes in nutrition information systems at the national and global levels are needed, and the persisting barriers to the expansion and integration of treatment of SAM into routine health systems need to be removed. Emergency funding approaches and objectives have to include sustaining and amplifying the achievements of the short-term palliative interventions. Nutrition programs implemented in emergency contexts have the capacity to contribute to answering priority research questions, and this capacity should be more optimally utilized.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Altruism
  • Disaster Planning
  • Disasters / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergencies*
  • Food Assistance
  • Humans
  • Information Systems
  • Malnutrition / epidemiology*
  • Malnutrition / mortality
  • Malnutrition / therapy*