Malnutrition can lead to a weakened immune system meaning children are more vulnerable to disease. These diseases can lead to further malnutrition, creating a vicious cycle of malnutrition and disease.
MSF first introduced specific therapeutic foods to treat malnutrition on a large scale as long ago as 2005, which has been widely used since; but access to specific and necessary nutrition remains one of the major challenges in reducing child mortality, especially in conflict-affected countries, where they are most vulnerable.
MSF screens a community for potential malnutrition by conducting nutritional assessments, and during almost all of our outpatient and inpatient services not dedicated specifically to nutrition and during other interventions. Our teams assess children by comparing their weight-for-height ratio to international WHO standards, and/or by measuring a child’s mid-upper-arm circumference (MUAC) using colour-coded paper bracelets. MUAC measurements are also simple enough to be used at a village level by community health workers.
The widespread use of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), that can be stored long-term without refrigeration and contains a specific balance of nutrients, allows us to more effectively fight against malnutrition. RUTF can be either a paste, much like peanut butter, or in a biscuit form. The majority of children can be treated at home by their family with follow-up appointments at a clinic. This strategy can result in cure rates of over 90 per cent and reduce referral to inpatient care.
In some regions, our teams run malnutrition prevention projects to stop children falling ill, especially after a yearly “hunger gap”. MSF starts working and sets up outpatient clinics months before malnutrition cases peak at the start of the rainy season. In areas where malnutrition is likely to become severe, our teams take a preventative approach by distributing a nutritious supplement to at-risk children across Africa and Asia and making sure other disease prevention initiatives, like vaccinations and malaria chemoprophylaxis, are implemented.
“I suddenly found myself treating my own premature triplets”
On the move and unable to move because of conflict
Malnutrition on the rise in Pibor
MSF sees tenfold increase in children with malnutrition in Doolo zone
MSF resumes medical activities
Despite generous policy, basic needs of refugees are not being met
Scores dead and thousands displaced as conflict erupts in Alindao
“They killed the women, the girls, everybody in the town”
Thousands at risk of cholera and malnutrition after fleeing attacks in Yuai and Waat
MSF Malnutrition Researchfieldresearch.msf.org
We produce important research based on our field experience. So far, we have published articles in over 100 peer-reviewed journals. These articles have often changed clinical practice and have been used for humanitarian advocacy. Read all our Malnutrition-related articles on our dedicated Field Research website.