Concern and Irish Aid to Host International Conference Marking 20 Years of Pioneering Malnutrition Treatment

A child gets MUAC measurement assessed by a nutrition assistant at a Nutrition Centre in Gambella, Ethiopia.
A child gets MUAC measurement assessed by a nutrition assistant at a Nutrition Centre in Gambella, Ethiopia. Photo: Kieran McConville / Concern Worldwide

Concern Worldwide, in partnership with Irish Aid, will host an international conference early next year to evaluate and discuss the future of Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) – an approach which is considered game-changing in the assessment and treatment of child malnutrition around the globe.

The conference marks 20 years since CMAM was first piloted by Concern in Ethiopia. The model moved treatment for the majority of wasted children (low weight-for-height which usually indicates recent and severe weight loss) from hospital settings to the community level.  

Children are now regularly assessed for malnutrition by community volunteers, referred to their local health centre for treatment, receive ration ready-to-use-therapeutic food and recover largely at home.  

“We are delighted to announce our support for a landmark CMAM Conference taking place in March. This conference will mark 20 years of CMAM which has been supported by Ireland from the beginning,” said Colm Brophy, Minister of State for Overseas Development and Diaspora. 

“The eradication of hunger and malnutrition is a cornerstone of Ireland’s development programme, and a key pillar of our foreign policy. It is also a vital precondition for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Having pledged to double our spend on nutrition in 2013 – a target that was reached within four years - Ireland stands ready to announce significant new global nutrition commitments in 2021.” 

The conference for CMAM practitioners will be held virtually from the 22nd to 25th March with practitioners and technical experts from governments, international organisations, donor agencies, and research institutions invited. 

“20 years ago, Concern, in partnership with Valid International, piloted a radical new approach to the treatment of malnutrition. Simple but revolutionary, CMAM has since been adopted as a mainstream method around the world and has saved the lives of millions of children. But the work is far from over,” said Concern’s Chief Executive Dominic MacSorley. “This international conference will bring experts and practitioners together, look at CMAM 20 years on and how we can scale up and improve, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.” 

In 2019 an estimated 47 million children were wasted. Just over a quarter of that number (11 million) had received treatment but figures suggest a staggering 35 million children are still not getting the treatment needed to prevent them from dying or facing disability for the rest of their lives as a result of acute malnutrition.  

The conference will look at the barriers that are still – despite much progress – preventing those children from receiving the care they need, and identify how CMAM can be adapted further to overcome those challenges.   

“While not all of the problems facing us 20 years on from the inception of CMAM are new, many of them have intensified over the last two decades. And in the last year we’ve had the COVID-19 pandemic which has exposed the vulnerability of global and regional food and health systems. The CMAM conference comes at an urgent time for the treatment of child malnutrition and gives a chance for experts in the field to adapt the model to changing contexts and improve efficiency,” said Connell Foley, Director of Strategy, Advocacy and Learning at Concern. 

A paper framing the key conference themes will be available in January. 

ENDS 

For media queries contact Hannah Myerson, Senior Communications Officer, Concern Worldwide, at [email protected]

Irish Aid is the Government’s programme for international development.  It is managed by the Development Cooperation and Africa Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Further information is available at www.irishaid.ie.

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