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New app uses a photo to automatically diagnose malnutrition in kids


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“Today, we have the resources and technical knowledge required to eradicate child malnutrition”

Action Against Hunger Foundation




There are over 201 million people around the world experiencing humanitarian crises – many of them are food insecure, often living in conflict affected regions of the world. Conflict remains the major driver for food insecurity. It only takes a look at the data to reveal the disturbing reality of malnutrition:


  • Over 16 million Severe Acute Malnutrition affected children worldwide
  • 70% of affected children that receive treatment are cured
  • Only 20% of SAM-affected children receive proper treatment


In hard-to-reach conflict zones, the rates of severe acute malnutrition remain high, and as a result, millions of young lives are lost every year. Faced with the scale of the challenge, the Fudación Acción Contra El Hambre, a Humanitarian Grand Challenge supported innovator, is using technology to develop innovative solutions to raise awareness and diagnose Severe Acute Malnutrition more quickly, through the SAM Photo Diagnosis App. This Humanitarian Grand Challenge supported innovation is helping to diagnose malnutrition among children in crises.



SAM Photo Diagnosis is an app for diagnosing malnutrition, by simply taking a photo. Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) remains a significant problem throughout the world, and while community-based management attempts to reduce the cost of treatment while maximizing coverage through community engagement, communities often lack tools to play an active role in solving the problem. The Fudación Acción Contra El Hambre aims to provide communities with the tools they need, enabling them to be more hands-on in diagnosing and preventing Severe Acute Malnutrition – changing the way communities around the world are able to access life-saving information.


Academics working with the Fundación Acción Contra El Hambre in Senegal and Guatemala, with the World Food Programme’s Vulnerability Unit, have created an app that allows users to classify children’s nutritional status based on their body shape, enabling individuals and communities to diagnose Severe Acute Malnutrition in real time. In conflict zones, where access to health centres or healthcare providers is often limited, this app could revolutionize the way people are able to monitor nutritional status and prevent malnutrition. By simply taking a picture, communities can , and seek help more quickly.


Based on a user centered design and strong scientific evidence that supports early diagnosis of Severe Acute Malnutrition, the app compares the body shape of the to that of a healthy child, informing the user if the child suffers from Severe Acute Malnutrition, and to what degree. Once the user receives the diagnosis, the app provides instructions for treatment referral.



A timely diagnosis for malnutrition is an essential factor in saving lives, but this is not always possible when individuals or communities – especially when many people living in areas of conflict or remote locations are un-reachable by aid-delivery.


As a technologically innovative solution, SAM Photo Diagnosis is able to strengthen early diagnosis of Severe Acute Malnutrition. The app provides a fast and reliable diagnosis of childhood malnutrition in any location, at any time, by anyone; allowing for , within the community.



Estimations are that there will be over 5.6 billion smartphones by 2020 with 90% of users in low and middle-income countries.


With the growing number of smartphone users in low and middle-income countries and conflict zones, there is a huge opportunity for the Fudación Acción Contra El Hambre and the SAM Photo Diagnosis app to play a key role in the strategic development of the digital health sector, transforming the way nutritional status is monitored and diagnosed.

By including and situating communities at the centre of their innovation, the Fudación Acción Contra El Hambre is actively contributing to the consolidation of integrated and coordinated health information systems at national levels. This app will function as an early warning system of Severe Acute Malnutrition prevention and treatment by producing data that could trigger appropriate resource allocation and cost-effective early treatment   Local community management of the app is also a guarantee for sustainability.



Action Against Hunger Network is present in 50 countries, reaching over 15 million people. With the growing number of people in low and middle-income countries and conflict-zones with access to smartphones, the SAM Photo Diagnosis app will create a channel of smart communication with the community and the individual, simplifying the diagnosis and monitoring of nutritional status. This situates the organization in a prime position to bring together community organizations, humanitarian organizations, as well as the information and communications technologies and health sectors to adapt decision making, optimize resource allocation and promote interoperability in order to transit towards effective e-health governance.

Please stay tuned for upcoming news and project progress.


The opportunity to bring real change is at our fingertips.



The Fudación Acción Contra El Hambre is a Humanitarian Grand Challenge supported innovation.


Contact Acción Contra El Hambre


Contact the Humanitarian Grand Challenge


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  • Zeba Tasci