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We conducted a prospective audit of 101 children with severe malnutrition aged 6 to 59 months admitted to Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya's largest tertiary level health facility, from February-April 2008. A structured tool was prepared to capture data to allow assessment of implementation of the WHO guidelines steps 1-8. Overall, 58% of children had marasmus and 47% of children were younger than one year old. Common co-morbidities at admission were diarrhoea (70.3%) and pneumonia (51.4%). The highest degree of implementation was observed for Step 5, treatment of potentially severe infections (90%, (95% CI 85.1-96.9)). Only 55% of the patients had F75 prescribed although this starter formula was available in this hospital. There was a delay in initiating feeds with a median time of 14.7 hours from the time of admission. There was modest implementation of Step 2, ensuring warmth (46.5%, 36.8-56.2), Step 3, treat dehydration (54.9%, 43.3-66.5) and Step 4, correct electrolyte imbalance, (45.5%, 35.6-55.8%). There was least implementation of Step 8, transition to catch-up feeding (23.8%, 13.6-34.0). We conclude that quality of care for children admitted with severe malnutrition at KNH is inadequate and often does not follow the WHO guidelines. Improving care will require a holistic and not simply medical approach.

Original publication




Journal article


Int Health

Publication Date





91 - 96