Management of Wasting

Wasting or acute malnutrition is a life-threatening condition, increasing the risk of death and serious illness. It occurs as a result of recent rapid weight loss or a failure to gain weight, most often caused by severe nutritional restrictions, a recent bout of illness, inappropriate childcare practices or a combination of these factors. It is characterised by extreme weight loss, resulting in low weight for height, and/or low mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) with or without the presence of bilateral oedema. While global efforts have focused on providing treatment for wasted children, particularly in humanitarian crisis, access to treatment remains unacceptably low, and urgent attention is needed to develop and scale-up solutions for both the treatment and prevention of wasting.

Global Thematic Working Group

The GTWG for Wasting was formed in early 2020. Four priority workstreams have been identified: Management of Wasting according to risk, Management of wasting for Community Health Workers (CHWs), Programming in the absence of therapeutic products, and Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) national protocol revision. The 'wasting according to risk' workstream has responded to several technical questions with respect to wasting in the context of COVID-19.

It currently has 23 members from a wide range of organisations and holds a regular weekly call in light of COVID-19. The sub-working group has, to date, responded to 29 escalated questions, which have been answered either through the updated UNICEF/ WHO guidance on ‘Wasting in the context of COVID-19’ or through five information notes on programme adaptations to wasting. Responses to these questions are found in the Programmatic Adaptations document.

Currently, the group is chaired by ENN and UNICEF. In June, a prevention workstream was incorporated into the Wasting GTWG, which is currently chaired by WFP and FAO.

Key Resources