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  • Writer's pictureDr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam

How to identify malnutrition in children?


Shakir’s tape is a type of tape that is used to measure the mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) of children and pregnant women. MUAC is a simple and reliable indicator of nutritional status and risk of mortality. Shakir’s tape can help identify malnutrition and refer children and women for appropriate treatment or supplementation.


To use Shakir’s tape, you need to follow these steps:

  • Find the midpoint of the upper arm between the shoulder and the elbow. You can do this by bending the arm at the elbow and marking the tip of the shoulder and the tip of the elbow with a pen. Then, measure the distance between the two marks and divide it by two. Mark the midpoint with a pen.

  • Wrap the tape around the arm at the midpoint, making sure it is not too tight or too loose. The tape should be flat and snug on the skin, but not compressing it.

  • Read the number and color on the tape where it meets the end. The number shows the MUAC in millimeters, and the color indicates the nutritional status of the child or woman. The color codes are:

  • Red: Severe acute malnutrition (SAM). MUAC less than 110 mm for children or less than 210 mm for pregnant women. The child or woman needs urgent referral for treatment.

  • Orange: Moderate acute malnutrition (MAM). MUAC between 110 mm and 125 mm for children or between 210 mm and 230 mm for pregnant women. The child or woman needs referral for supplementation.

  • Yellow: At risk of malnutrition. MUAC between 125 mm and 135 mm for children or between 230 mm and 250 mm for pregnant women. The child or woman needs counseling and follow-up for growth promotion and monitoring.

  • Green: Well nourished. MUAC above 135 mm for children or above 250 mm for pregnant women.


Shakir’s tape is a simple and effective tool that can help detect and prevent malnutrition in children and pregnant women. It can be used by health workers, community volunteers, or even family members with proper training. By using Shakir’s tape regularly, you can help save lives and improve health outcomes.

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