Spotlight on SAM: Concern Worldwide, Valid International, and CMAM

Photo: Niger, Concern Worldwide

Tom Arnold, the CEO of Concern Worldwide, holds that “Everybody – as a basic human right – has a right to food. The right to food is as basic as life itself.” This belief drove Concern Worldwide, along with Valid International, to be pioneers in the development of a radical, new approach to the treatment of severe acute malnutrition, what we know today as CMAM (Community based Management of Acute Malnutrition).

With the development of ready-to-use therapeutic food in the late 90s, Concern and Dr. Steve Collins, Director of Valid International, recognized that this was like “inventing a computer without the software.” Concern and Collins set out to find an alternative to the traditional Therapeutic Feeding Centers (TFCs) that meant long walks for mothers, lengthy stays and disease outbreaks for children, and expensive and hard to maintain facilities. In contrast, CMAM programs would allow for community health volunteers to identify SAM before the onset of complications, for mothers to stay at home with their families, and for children to be treated with RUTFs, with weekly consultations with nutritionists. Through numerous trials, Concern and Collins proved that CMAM programs could reach an astonishing amount of suffering children in comparison with TFCs. Over 70% of children suffering from SAM were reached by CMAM, as opposed to 10% by TFCs.

Their journey continued as Concern and Dr. Collins went on to be integral to the adjustment of WHO treatment guidelines for SAM to include CMAM. In 2007, the United Nations enforced CMAM as the international best practice in the fight against SAM, and the rest is history. Thanks to the determination and insight of these groups, we can easily distribute MANA RUTF to children around the world.

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