WHO issues new guidance for treating children with severe acute malnutrition

Geneva, Switzerland (PANA) - The World Health Organization (WHO) Wednesday released new treatment guidelines for the almost 20 million under-five children worldwide who have severe acute malnutrition.

Severe acute malnutrition is when children suffer severe wasting that may or may not be accompanied by swelling of the body with fluid retention.  

It occurs when infants and children do not have adequate energy, protein and micronutrients in their diet, combined with other health problems such as recurrent infections. It is diagnosed when the circumference of the upper arm is less than 115 mm or when the weight for height of a child is severely reduced.

Children with severe acute malnutrition are among the most vulnerable people in the world. They are very thin: most of their fat and muscle has been used by their bodies to stay alive.

The updated WHO guidelines, which the global health body released in a statement issued here Wednesday, recommend that children with severe acute malnutrition who do not have health complications that require hospitalisation, receive special, high-energy food and antibiotics to treat infection.

This allows them to recover at home with their families. They also give guidance on how to treat them for HIV and, if necessary make recommendations on how to treat severely malnourished infants under six months.

“The guidelines are critical because many national health plans currently overlook children with severe acute malnutrition. This can be fatal. If these children don’t get the right medical and nutritional care, very often they die,” says Dr Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development.

WHO said the new guidelines supersede those it issued in 1999, which recommended that all severely malnourished children be hospitalised, given fortified formula milk and appropriate treatment including antibiotics.

The guidelines have been updated to reflect new opportunities and technologies that allow severely malnourished children who have an appetite and no evident medical complications to be effectively treated at home with specially-formulated foods that provide energy and nutrients and antibiotic medicines.
-0- PANA SEG 27Nov2013

27 Novembro 2013 10:03:38

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