Acute Malnutrition in Latin America: the challenge of ending avoidable deaths.

Weisstaub, G., Araya, M.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, malnutrition still represents a health concern expressed mainly as stunting and micronutrient deficiencies, lessening the attention given to acute malnutrition (moderate and severe); however, the latter has a high fatality rate. Ending these avoidable deaths represents a major health and ethical challenge in the region.

Acute malnutrition plus infections (mainly diarrhea and pneumonia) determine an important fraction of the fatality rate due to malnutrition in most regions, especially those with higher poverty and social instability. Application of the World Health Organization guidelines for the treatment of children with acute severe malnutrition reduces the fatality rate significantly. Among the many possibilities for treatment, systems based on day care centers and at home should be promoted. Training in the application of the World Health Organization guidelines should be incorporated into the curricula of health-related professions in countries where malnutrition is prevalent.

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