National Nutrition Week: Frequently Asked Questions about Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM)

Q1. What is Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM)?

Ans. SAM is a term for a condition used to describe current or recent decrease in food consumption resulting in wasting (loss of muscle) or oedema. Wasting could happen if a child fails to gain weight or lose weight due to illness, inappropriate feeding practices, lack of hygiene and sanitation, and/or other reasons.

Q2. How do we know if a child suffers from SAM?

Ans. The severity of malnutrition is defined through anthropometric indices: body measurements interpreted in comparison to a reference population, such as weight-for height (W/H) or mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) for acute malnutrition. SAM means a child has a very low weight (

Q3. How many children in India suffer from SAM?

Ans. The latest official data from Integrated Child Development Scheme or ICDS suggests that as of 2012, there are 1.4 million severely malnourished children in India. MSF’s 2014 survey results indicate that the prevalence of SAM in Bihar’s Darbhanga district is 3.7 %, which represents nearly 22,000 children who suffer from severe acute malnutrition.

Q4. How does SAM affect a child’s growth and development?

Ans. Severe Acute Malnutrition is a serious health problem that impedes physical growth and cognitive development. SAM children have reduced immunity and deranged metabolic system which renders the body weak and makes them susceptible to common diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia, or even death, if left untreated.

Q5. How can SAM be managed?

Ans. An approach that integrates the public health system with community level initiatives carried out by the health workers can be a resourceful and effective way of detecting and treating SAM cases.  Community level care not only reaches out to a larger number of patients, but also relies on the understanding that early detection of the condition in patients can save more lives.

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