Stigma as a barrier to treatment for child acute malnutrition in Marsabit County, Kenya

Stigma as a barrier to treatment for child acute malnutrition in Marsabit County, Kenya

Acute malnutrition affects millions of children each year, yet global coverage of life-saving treatment through the community-based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) is estimated to be below 15%. This study investigated the potential role of stigma as a barrier to accessing CMAM.

The most common barriers to accessing child health care were those known to be universally problematic: women’s time and labour constraints. These constituted the top five most frequently reported barriers regardless of child acute malnutrition status. In contrast, the odds of reporting shame as a barrier were 3.64 times higher in caregivers of MAM and SAM children relative to those of normal children.

The authors conclude that stigma is an under-recognized barrier to accessing CMAM and may constrain programme coverage. In light of the large gap in coverage of CMAM, there is an urgent need to understand the sources of acute malnutrition-associated stigma and adopt effective means of de-stigmatization.