In 2005 in response to the food crisis in Niger, HKI began to integrate community-based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) to treat malnutrition into its ongoing child survival programs aimed to prevent malnutrition. The program has expanded to Burkina Faso and Mali to strengthen the capacity of local structures to both treat malnutrition through the integration of CMAM and prevent malnutrition through the Essential Nutrition Actions (ENA) framework.
CMAM is a revolutionary method developed by Helen Keller International (HKI) to better treat and prevent moderate to severe malnutrition. CMAM provides a holistic approach by utilizing and building the capacity of community structures already in place, training community members, and minimizing the time mothers and children must be away from the home. Only acutely severe malnourished children with complications are kept in the centers; children with appetites receive ambulatory care and caretakers are provided with Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic Foods (RUTF), such as Plumpy’nut, as well as medication and instructions for the treatment at home. Plumpy’nut and related products are nutrient-rich pastes specifically designed for the treatment of severe malnutrition. They are easy to store at home with minimal risk of contamination. By minimizing the time children must be in the centers, the likeliness of infection and the financial and social burden to the family are also reduced. In Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, HKI helped develop national protocols for managing acute malnutrition, trained health staff and community volunteers, and strengthened the health system’s ability to supervise and manage the program. HKI is currently developing a web-based database to improve the monitoring and reporting of health center results. In the future, HKI will focus on the retention of knowledge in the health system, enable on-the-job training through learning sites, and conduct further research to improve the dietary contents of supplementary food for moderately malnourished children as well as to identify more effective channels to prevent or treat malnutrition as early as possible.