It is estimated that over a third of child deaths are due directly or indirectly to undernutrition. Decreasing child mortality and improving maternal health is dependent upon action to address the condition. Preventing maternal and child undernutrition is will not only benefit those directly affected but will have a positive knock on effect on the next generation.
We have programmes in a number of countries where under nutrition is a concern among very young children and we are working to ensure assessments for malnutrition are carried out routinely by community based health workers when they are checking children for other symptoms. If a child is found to be malnourished, they are referred to a treatment facility.
Severe acute malnutrition
Severe acute malnutrition is of particular concern among young children. It is defined by a very low weight for height, by visible severe wasting, or by the presence of nutritional oedema. Research suggests that severe acute malnutrition in children over six months who have no medical complications can be managed at the community level using special ready to use therapeutic foods.
In South Sudan, where malnutrition is a major problem, especially in returnee camps in the north of the country, Malaria Consortium is running an innovative programme to assess and treat malnutrition within the community. Community workers are trained to diagnose and treat malnutrition using already established community case management networks. This extends the reach and allows severe cases to be referred earlier.
By addressing the causes and effects of the three leading causes of death in children, the nutrition programme aims to have a positive impact on childhood mortality.