Sunday, March 20, 2011

115 mm circumference

We often relate severe acute malnutrition (SAM for its acronym) in children with African countries, but children starve in many more countries and, in some cases, famine is even more spread than in Africa. In India, for instance, 6.4% of children under age 5 suffer from SAM, which is more than twice the number of children starving in Africa (3%). Talking about percentages may seem few people, but 6.4% of children below 5 years of age represent more than 8 million undernourished children, plus the rest of hungry children who also suffer from famine-induced diseases but are not diagnosed severe malnutrition.
There are different criteria to check the degree of malnutrition in children, and one of the most common criteria is measuring their mid-upper-arm circumference: children are considered to suffer from SAM when their mid-upper-arm circumference is less than 115 mm. As it is difficult to imagine, the above picture shows things with a perimeter of about 115 mm.
We know that we have enough means and resources to eradicate world hunger, so we only need some political will: ranking this problem on top of the priority list of our governments, together with universal education. Moreover, in the particular case of SAM, the Indian government should acknowledge it as a disease which can be treated specifically, so that campaigns like those against malaria or tuberculosis could be launched, and not just studies commissioned by the World Bank. Today, with our resources available, any death by hunger should be considered a murder.
(Before accusing us of being too radical, bear in mind that the last sentence is not ours: it’s Jean Ziegler’s, a UN bigwig and former Member of Parliament in Switzerland).


  1. Journal of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics, August 2010. Volume 47, number 8. Special issue on Severe Acute Malnutrition-UNICEF:
  2. Post at Delivering Data about the cost of eradicating world hunger:
  3. Who is Jean Ziegler:


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.