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ACUTE MALNUTRITION, AN AVOIDABLE EPIDEMIC

ACUTE MALNUTRITION, AN AVOIDABLE EPIDEMIC

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Published by: Acción Contra el Hambre on May 12, 2011
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www.actionagainsthunger.org
ACUTE MALNUTRITION
A Preventable Pandemic
©  S  u s  a n a  e a 
 
Acute malnutrition is a devastating diseaseo epidemic proportions. Worldwide, some 55million children age 5 or younger suer rommoderate acute malnutrition and 19 million areaicted with severe acute malnutrition—themost dangerous type o hunger.
1
Each year,some 5 million o these children die becausethey lack access to treatment.
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These deaths areentirely preventable.Childhood acute malnutrition is as much a medicalproblem as it is a social problem because itdirectly aects a broad range o issues: a country’smortality rates, educational prospects, productiveemployment, and economic capacity, etc.Malnutrition also happens to be one o the principalmechanisms behind the transmission o povertyand inequality rom one generation to the next. These devastating consequences also carry a heavyeconomic cost: it is estimated that productivity lossesalone exceed 10% o a person’s lietime income, andup to 3% o a country’s GDP.Acute malnutrition in children under ve yearso age increases their risk o death, inhibits theirphysiological and mental development, has lie-longimplications or their health, and heavily mortgagesthe opportunities available to uture generations.
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 The Lancet: Maternal and Child Undernutrition Series paper 1January 2008
2
 
Pelletier DL. The relationship between child anthropometryand mortality in developing countries: implications or policy,programs and utures research. N Nutr 1994 (supple): 2047S-81S
DIAGNOSING MALNUTRITION
A DIMINISHED WEIGHT/HEIGHT INDEX
• A weight/height measurement below
20% o the mean indicates moderate acutemalnutrition.
•A weight/height measurement below 30% of 
the mean indicates severe acute malnutrition.PRESENCE OF BILATERAL EDEMASAn abnormal accumulation o liquid in one’sextremities.MIDDLE UPPER ARM CIRCUMFERENCEAn anthropometric measure requently usedduring emergencies is the measurement o a child’s upper arm—the MUAC, or MiddleUpper Arm Circumerence. Anything less than12.0 centimeters indicates a child’s lie is indanger rom acute malnutrition.
WHAT IS ACUTE MALNUTRITION?
Measuring or the Weight/Height IndexMeasuring the middle upper arm circumerence (MUAC)
 
Acute malnutrition takes place when the bodydoesn’t receive the nutritional support it requires,a condition to which it adapts by reducing physicalactivity and slowing the processes involvedin proper organ unction and cell and tissuemaintenance. Regular nourishment enableshuman beings to secure the energy their bodiesrequire or the proper unctioning o their vitalorgans. Malnutrition occurs when the bodyhas spent its energy reserves. The body beginsto consume its own tissues in search o thenutrients and energy it needs to survive, targetingmuscle and body at rst. The body’s metabolismbegins to slow, thermal regulation is disrupted,kidney unction is impaired, and immune systemcapacity is diminished. The greater the losso muscle and other tissue, the less likely thechances o survival. What happens next?Moderate Acute:Moderate acute malnutritionaects a greater number o children and has agreater impact on morbidity. It is accompaniedby crucial deciencies such as anemia (rom alack o iron), goiter (rom a lack o iodine), andxerophthalmia (rom a lack o vitamin A), aswell as scurvy, pellagra, beriberi (rom a lack o vitamin B), and rickets (rom a lack o vitamin D).Severe Acute:The most severe orm thatmalnutrition can take, severe acute malnutritioncan maniest in two ways:
• Marasmus:
Marasmus is characterized by a massiveloss o weight and muscle tissue. Due to thedisequilibrium experienced in weight and height,children suering rom Marasmus look almostelderly and their bodies are skeletal. At this point,their bodies’ vital processes are compromised:their metabolism has slowed, thermal regulation isdisrupted, intestinal absorption and kidney unctionare diminished, the liver’s capacity to synthesizeproteins and eliminate toxins is reduced, and theimmunological system doesn’t unction properly,which means less resistance to illness and disease.At this stage, even i the child manages to survive itsbout with Marasmus, the damage is done and thedeciencies sustained rom the disease can never beovercome.
• Kwashiorkor:
 The term “kwashiorkor” comes rom a Ghanianword that means “the sickness the older child gets whenthe new child is born.” Its principal characteristic is thepresence o bilateral edemas on the extremities and onthe ace (a ull-aced child). Underneath these edemas,the muscles have been severely weakened, causingexcruciating cramping and muscle pain. As is the case
with Marasmus, children with Kwashiorkor suer from
signicant damage to the unctioning o their internalsystems.
 TYPES OF ACUTE MALNUTRITION
Diagnosing a child with acute malnutritionMarasmus, a type osevere acute malnutrition

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