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COVID-19 and the Risks to the Nutritional outcomes of Children and Women in Eastern and Southern Africa

As Covid-19 infections continue to rise in the region, the impact of the pandemic, including the impacts related to government mitigation measures, on household food security and nutrition remain adverse. According to the 2020 Joint Malnutrition Estimates, released prior to the pandemic, there are currently more than 26 million stunted children, and an estimated 10.7 million wasted children, including 2.6 million severely wasted children, in the 21 countries of Eastern and Southern Africa.  While the effects of COVID-19 on malnutrition are not yet fully known, it is anticipated that the biggest toll on the most vulnerable will not come from the pathology of COVID-19 itself, but from the collateral impact on food production and access, provision of health services and changes in practices and behaviour.  Efforts are ongoing to ensure that systems are in place to scale up nutrition actions, however this is constrained by inadequate access to services, and inadequate funding for nutrition, and constrained household coping mechanisms.

With this regard, this joint call to action from Save the Children, Action Against Hunger, IRC, CRS, Concern Worldwide, WHO, UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF ESAR is reaching out to All partners in the nutrition sector including Government, UN agencies, development partners, CSOs and researchers to come together to protect the nutrition status of vulnerable women and children across the region. 

The key messages include:

  • Ensure inclusion of key preventive and curative nutrition actions in national response plans on COVID-19
  • Ensure adequate resourcing for the scale up of key nutrition actions
  • Scale up promotion and protection of the key recommendations for infant feeding in the context of COVID-19
  • Adopt context-specific programme adaptations where necessary that reduce the risk of transmission and enable early identification and referral of wasted children as well as access to treatment for those who need it
  • Ensure food systems support access to affordable nutritious food for the most vulnerable women and children throughout the year

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