Médecins Sans Frontières Australia
Médecins Sans Frontières Australia (Doctors Without Borders / MSF)
Malnutrition: a serious medical condition

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You can help ensure we have access to the ongoing support and resources necessary to respond rapidly to all the people who need us. Please support Médecins Sans Frontières today and help us continue to offer emergency medical assistance in all of the resource-poor contexts in which we work.
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Make your own MUAC band

MUAC bandPrint and cut-out a life-size Mid-Upper-Arm Circumference (MUAC) band to see for yourself how tiny a severely malnourished child's arms can be.

We use the MUAC band to identify the level to which a child under five years of age is malnourished before proceeding with a treatment plan.

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What is malnutrition?

A young child is screened for malnutrition in Ethiopia
A young child is screened for malnutrition in Ethiopia. © Anne Yzebe / MSF
Malnutrition is more than just hunger or a lack of food. It is a serious and often life-threatening medical condition caused by a diet lacking in essential calories, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.

Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable to the disease if their mothers are unable to introduce sufficient food into their child's diet whilst weaning them off breast milk. This time between the age of six months and two years is one of rapid growth, when a diet lacking in essential nutrients can have a serious and profound impact on a child's long-term health and development.

Grave consequences

Children suffering from malnutrition have an extremely compromised immune system and are 10 times more likely to die of treatable illnesses like chest infections or diarrhoea. If malnutrition is left untreated, a child's physical growth and mental development can become permanently impaired, and in severe cases they can lose their lives.

Our response relies on you

A Médecins Sans Frontières medical team works to stabilise severely malnourished children.
A Médecins Sans Frontières medical team works to stabilise severely malnourished children. © Lali Cambra / MSF
The effective and ongoing treatment of severe and acute malnutrition requires a trained medical response that relies on rapid access to resources and trained staff. Médecins Sans Frontières is one of the few organisations that is able to treat severe acute malnutrition, and we need your help in order for these programs to continue.

Next: Find out how we treat malnutrition