The World Health Organization (WHO) has taken a significant step in the global fight against acute malnutrition in children under 5 by unveiling a groundbreaking guideline on the prevention and management of wasting and nutritional edema (acute malnutrition). The launch addresses the persistent challenge of acute malnutrition, impacting millions of children globally and hindering progress toward Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to malnutrition elimination by 2030.
Despite global commitments in 2015, the prevalence of acute malnutrition in children under five remains alarming, affecting an estimated 45 million children worldwide in 2022. In response to the Global Action Plan (GAP) on child wasting, WHO developed the guideline to offer evidence-based recommendations and best practices for preventing and managing acute malnutrition.
KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GUIDELINE
Emphasis on a child-centered approach, recognizing the interdependence of caring for both mothers and infants.
Promotion of Breastfeeding and Nutrient-Dense Diets:
Recognition of the critical role of breastfeeding and access to nutrient-dense home diets in both preventing and managing it.
Community Health Workers’ Role:
Acknowledgment of the pivotal role community health workers can play in providing evidence-based care for children with acute malnutrition.
Dr. Tedros, Director-General of WHO, highlighted the importance of integrating nutrition services into health systems and strengthening health systems comprehensively. The guideline represents a comprehensive approach to address the complex issue of acute malnutrition in children, focusing on prevention and management simultaneously.
WHO is collaborating closely with UNICEF and other UN agencies involved in GAP to develop operational guidance for policymakers, program managers, and health workers. The aim is to facilitate the implementation of the guideline, with the involvement of experienced practitioners, programmers, academics, and other key stakeholders. Regional and country workshops are underway, fostering wide stakeholder involvement in adapting the global guidance to specific contexts for meaningful implementation and impact.