Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in children is the most serious form of malnutrition and is associated with very high rates of morbidity and mortality. For sustainable SAM management, United Nations recommends integration of community based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) into the health system. The objective of the study was to assess the preparedness of the health system to implement CMAM in Bangladesh.
The assessment was undertaken during January to May 2014 by conducting document review, key informant interviews, and direct observation. A total of 38 key informant interviews were conducted among government policy makers and program managers (n = 4), nutrition experts (n = 2), health and nutrition implementing partners (n = 2), development partner (n = 1), government health system staff (n = 5), government front line field workers (n = 22), and community members (n = 2). The assessment was based on: workforce, service delivery, financing, governance, information system, medical supplies, and the broad socio-political context.
The government of Bangladesh has developed inpatient and outpatient guidelines for the management of SAM. There are cadres of community health workers of government and non-government actors who can be adequately trained to conduct CMAM. Inpatient management of SAM is available in 288 facilities across the country. However, only 2.7% doctors and 3.3% auxiliary staff are trained on facility based management of SAM. In functional facilities, uninterrupted supply of medicines and therapeutic diet are not available. There is resistance and disagreement among nutrition stakeholders regarding import or local production of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF). Nutrition coordination is fragile and there is no functional supra-ministerial coordination platform for multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder nutrition.
There is an enabling environment for CMAM intervention in Bangladesh although health system strengthening is needed considering the barriers that have been identified. Training of facility based health staff, government community workers, and ensuring uninterrupted supply of medicines and logistics to the functional facilities should be the immediate priorities. Availability of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) is a critical component of CMAM and government should promote in-country production of RUTF for effective integration of CMAM into the health system in Bangladesh.