WHO issues new guideline to tackle acute malnutrition in children: Basics Explained

World Health Organization (WHO) launches its new guideline on the prevention and management of wasting and nutritional oedema (acute malnutrition) in children under 5.

           In 2015, the world committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the ambitious target of eliminating malnutrition in all of its forms by 2030. However, despite these commitments, the proportion of children with acute malnutrition has persisted at a worrying level, affecting an estimated 45 million children under five worldwide in 2022.

Key recommendations of the guideline focus on:

  • Child-centred approach and of caring for mothers and their infants as an interdependent pair;
  • Breastfeeding and access to nutrient-dense home diets are a critical component of both prevention and management; and
  • Community health workers can play an important role in providing evidence-based care for children with acute malnutrition.

This new 2023 guideline includes 21 recommendations (14 new and 7 updated) and 12 good practice statements.

India government, in October 2023, launched first ever “Protocol for Identification and Management of Malnutrition in Children’’. The protocols define in detail the identification of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), After the identification of children through growth monitoring data, appetite tests will be done on all SAM children for medical complications. Screening of children at OPDs and in-patient wards in health facilities, using weight for height, and weight for age measurements will be done.SAM children who fail the appetite test will be referred to Nutritional Rehabilitation Centres, which will also be linked to medical centres.


For several decades India was dealing with only one form of malnutrition–undernutrition. In the last decade, now faces a double burden which includes both over- and undernutrition,

  What is malnutrition?

Malnutrition is the condition that develops when the body does not get the right amount of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organ function. The term malnutrition covers 2 broad groups of conditions.

One is ‘undernutrition’—which includes stunting (low height for age); It is is associated with an underdeveloped brain, poor learning capacity, and increased nutrition-related diseases.), wasting (low weight for height); It is associated with decreased fat mass. Also
known as wasting syndrome, it causes muscle and fat tissue to waste away.), underweight (low weight for age) and micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals).

The other is overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer).

Children who are already undernourished can suffer from protein-energy malnutrition (PEM).

Two types of PEM are— Kwashiorkor and Marasmus.


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