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2013 Global: Evaluation of Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM): Global Synthesis Report

Author: UNICEF Evaluation Office

Executive summary

"With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports. Please ensure that you check the quality of this evaluation report, whether it is “Outstanding, Best Practice”, “Highly Satisfactory”, “Mostly Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” before using it. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labeled as ‘Part 3’ of the report."


Approximately 20 million children are affected by severe acute malnutrition (SAM) worldwide – some residing in countries facing emergencies and many others in non-emergency situations. Children suffering from malnutrition are susceptible to death and disease and they are also at greater risk of developmental delays.

Treatment of SAM has evolved as a major development intervention over several decades. Alongside other partners, UNICEF works to ensure that women and children have access to services, including through timely provision of essential supplies - especially therapeutic foods for the treatment of SAM. The advent of ready to use therapeutic food (RUTF) and a community-based approach - community management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) - has made it possible to treat the majority of children in their homes.

CMAM is generally a preventive continuum with four components: 1) community outreach as the basis; 2) management of moderate acute malnutrition (MAM); 3) outpatient treatment for children with SAM with a good appetite and without medical complications; and, 4) inpatient treatment for children with SAM and medical complications and/or no appetite. A key objective of CMAM is progressive integration of all four preventive components into national health systems. By the end of 2012, governments in 63 countries had established partnerships with UNICEF, WFP, WHO, donors, and NGO implementing partners (IPs) for CMAM. The Ministries of Health (MoH) assume leadership and coordination roles and provide the health facilities.

UNICEF’s inputs for CMAM include policy development, commitment of funds, coordination, and technical support available to the MoH and other implementing partners. UNICEF has made significant investments to scale up treatment of SAM through CMAM including procurement of therapeutic foods, medicines, and equipment. UNICEF currently procures approximately 32,000 MT of RUTF annually which represents an investment of over 100 million dollars.

Purpose/ Objective:

This evaluation is the first systematic effort by UNICEF to generate evidence on how well its global as well as country level CMAM strategies have worked, including their acceptance and ownership in various contexts and appropriateness of investments in capacity development and supply components. The evaluation was conducted by a team of independent external evaluators and included comprehensive assessments of CMAM in five countries (Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal and Pakistan) and drawing synthesized findings and recommendations based on broader research and a global internet survey targeting all countries implementing CMAM. A wide range of stakeholders, including national and international partners, beneficiaries, and donors, participated in the exercise. The resulting conclusions and recommendations are intended to strengthen UNICEF’s contributions to CMAM and to support governments, UN agencies, NGOs and other stakeholders in modifying CMAM policy and technical guidance for both emergency and non-emergency contexts.


The evaluation scope consists of two interrelated components. First, the evaluation undertook detailed analyses of CMAM in Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal and Pakistan. The criteria of relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability and scaling up were applied to CMAM components and to cross-cutting issues. Data were obtained from secondary sources, health system databases, and observations during visits to CMAM intervention areas. The community perspective was analysed through collection of opinions from caretakers, extended family, community leaders, and community-based health workers in addition to stakeholders from government and assistance agencies. Quantitative data were analysed to determine whether performance targets were met and qualitative data supported the analysis. Secondly, building upon case study evidence, broader research resulted in compiled lessons, good practices and recommendations for UNICEF and partners globally. A global internet survey targeting all 63 countries implementing CMAM, helped to triangulate and validate conclusions from the five country case studies.

Findings and Conclusions:

1. Relevance of CMAM Guidance and Technical Assistance 
• The CMAM approach is appropriate to address acute malnutrition, particularly to the degree that CMAM is being sustainably integrated into the national health system.
• Demand for CMAM services has increased; efficient use of community resources for prevention and identification and referral of children with MAM and SAM contributes to demand.
• National contributions to CMAM are growing but scale up (expansion) is challenged by funding constraints for regular programming and reliance on emergency funds and external sources of assistance.
• Global UNICEF and WHO guidance for SAM treatment has contributed to development of national guidelines which offer high value in promoting district ownership. However, lack of agreement on the best approach to address MAM has contributed to inconsistency among countries for MAM management and concomitantly, prevention of SAM.
• Global and national guidance is generally adequate for treatment protocols but lacking or fragmented regarding: planning and monitoring, integration of CMAM, equity and gender, community assessment and mobilization, and MAM management.
• Technical support has resulted in significant gains in process, coverage and outcomes; creation of parallel systems is not sustainable and slows national ownership.
• Within UNICEF overall, there has been effective support for fund mobilization, emergency nutrition response, and supporting nutrition protocols; expansion of regional roles is important to meet national technical assistance needs.
• Capacity development has significantly promoted quality of services [...]

2. CMAM Effectiveness and Quality of Services

3. Promoting Equity in Access

4. Progress and Issues related to National Ownership

5. Efficiency - Costs, Supply and Delivery of RUTF

6. Sustainability and Scaling Up (Expansion of CMAM)

[see Executive Summary for more information]


Overall, the evaluation recommends that UNICEF continue to promote and support CMAM as a viable approach to preventing and addressing SAM, with an emphasis on prevention through strengthening community outreach and integrating CMAM into national health systems and with other interventions.

Ownership and Integration, Strategy and Policy, Guidelines  
• UNICEF should continue to work with governments, WFP, WHO, IPs, and other stakeholders to secure a common understanding on the most effective means of addressing MAM in order to unify approaches, to strengthen community-based preventive measures, and to prevent SAM and relapses into SAM.
• Establish a guideline or framework for integration of CMAM into the health system and with other interventions that is useful at national level when based on capacity assessments and integrated with national health, nutrition and community development strategies.
• Facilitate coordination and technical support at regional/national level to expand or develop national CMAM guidelines as CMAM is integrated with other interventions such as IYCF.

Performance and Quality of Services
• Strengthen community outreach by ensuring adequate investment in CMAM awareness raising activities and their integration with outreach for other public health interventions.
• Decentralize nutrition information systems to strengthen data collection and analysis at district level supporting and reinforcing the MoHs’ lead role and joint accountability among the MoH and partners for improving quality.
• Define a standardized monitoring system to assess the quality of the CMAM services to inform the MoH, UN partners, IPs and other stakeholders where more capacity is needed.

Equity in Planning and Coverage
• Strengthen planning for CMAM through conducting community assessments, and greater use of joint integrated results-based planning exercises and mapping information [...].  [See Executive Summary for more information].

You will find the five CMAM country case studies in these links below:
2012 Country Case Study - Chad
2012 Country Case Study - Ethiopia
2012 Country Case Study - Kenya
2012 Country Case Study - Nepal
2012 Country Case Study - Pakistan

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