Kwashiorkor and marasmus, collectively termed severe acute malnutrition (SAM), account for at least 10% of all deaths among children under 5 years of age worldwide, virtually all of them in low-income and middle-income countries. A number of risk factors, including seasonal food insecurity, environmental enteropathy, poor complementary feeding practices, and chronic and acute infections, contribute to the development of SAM. Careful anthropometry is key to making an accurate diagnosis of SAM and can be performed by village health workers or even laypeople in rural areas. The majority of children can be treated at home with ready-to-use therapeutic food under the community-based management of acute malnutrition model with recovery rates of approximately 90% under optimal conditions. A small percentage of children, often those with HIV, tuberculosis or other comorbidities, will still require inpatient therapy using fortified milk-based foods.
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