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Open Access Research

Perspectives for integration into the local health system of community-based management of acute malnutrition in children under 5 years: a qualitative study in Bangladesh

Camille Eric Kouam1*, Hélène Delisle1, Hans J Ebbing2, Anne Dominique Israël3, Cécile Salpéteur3, Myriam Aït Aïssa3 and Valery Ridde4

Author Affiliations

1 TRANSNUT - (WHO Collaborating Centre on Nutrition Changes and Development), Department of Nutrition, Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal, 2405 Chemin de la Côte Sainte-Catherine, Montreal, Quebec H3T 1A8, Canada

2 Nutrition & Health Service, Action Against Hunger France (ACF-France), House - 20, Rd- 117, Gulshan 2, Dhaka 1212, Bangladesh

3 Nutrition & Health Service, Action Against Hunger France (ACF-France), 4 rue Niepce - 75662 PARIS CEDEX 14, Paris, France

4 School of Public Health, CRCHUM, Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal, Saint-Antoine Tower, 850 Saint-Denis, 3rd Floor, Room S03-462, Montreal, Quebec H2X 0A9, Canada

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Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:22  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-22

Published: 20 March 2014

Abstract

Background

Acute malnutrition is a major cause of death among under-five children in low- and middle-income countries. United Nations agencies recommend the integration of community-based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) into the local health systems for sustainability. The objective of the study was to assess the preparedness of the health system to implement CMAM targeting children under-five years in two sub-districts of Bangladesh.

Methods

The assessment was performed through direct observation of 44 health centres, individual interviews of seven policy makers, three donors, four health and nutrition implementing partners, 29 health workers, and review of secondary data. Assessment themes, derived from the WHO six Building Blocks, were nutrition governance, nutrition financing, health service delivery, human resources, equipment and supply, referral, monitoring and supervision mechanism. They were subdivided into 16 criteria. Findings were compared with CMAM operational recommendations according to WHO, Valid International and Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance guidelines.

Results

The government of Bangladesh has developed inpatient and outpatient CMAM guidelines, and a policy offering free-of-charge health care for under-five children. Nutrition coordination was not under full government leadership. Most of funds (74%) dedicated to CMAM were provided by donors, for short-term interventions. Of the total 44 health centres assessed, 39 (88.6%) were active, among which 4 (10.2%) delivered inpatient services, 35 (89.8%) outpatient services, and 24 (61.5%) outreach services. These were regarded as opportunities to include CMAM activities. There were 48.9% vacant positions and the health workers were not trained for management of acute malnutrition. Equipment and supplies did not meet the operational recommendations for management of acute malnutrition.

Conclusion

Implementing CMAM through the health centres of both sub-districts would warrant progressive strengthening of the overall health system in the light of identified barriers. A short term strategy would consist of strengthening government coordination of nutrition interventions, exploring additional funding sources, equipping and supplying functional health centres, training health workers and actively involving community health workers to cope with health facility staff shortage. A mid-term strategy would consist of securing permanent funding for CMAM, rehabilitating non-functional health centres, attracting and retaining health workers in rural areas.

Keywords:
Acute malnutrition; Under-5 children; Community-based management of acute malnutrition; Preparedness; Health system; Bangladesh