In a Bloomberg QuickTake “Charge” Show that aired on 29 July 2021, Dr. Saskia Osendarp, Executive Director, Micronutrient Forum, shared the latest findings from the Nature Food Publication on the impact of COVID-19 on maternal and child undernutrition and mortality. Watch the clip here and the full show here.
In 2020, world hunger hit a 15-year high with 1 in 10 people being undernourished. The research conducted by Standing Together for Nutrition highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened this food crisis particularly for the poor and vulnerable. The impact is visible at three levels- burdened health systems, drastically reduced availability and affordability of nutritious food, and unprecedented economic and income losses.
In order to estimate the effects of the pandemic on maternal and child malnutrition, experts in nutrition, economics, health, food systems came together as part of the Standing Together for Nutrition Consortium. Their findings warned that by 2022, an additional 13.6 million children under the age of 5 would be wasted or acutely malnourished, negatively impacting their brain development, growth, and earning potential. The pandemic also has social and economic losses of at least USD 44.3 billion in the years to come. It is expected to cause the deaths of an additional 283,000 children under the age of five by 2022. Thus, the pandemic threatens to reverse the progress achieved in nutrition and health over the past decade.
In the interview, Dr. Osendarp urged investment in nutrition for women and children in COVID-19 response and recovery plans in lower-and-middle-income countries. In the long-term, she highlighted the importance of structural investments in food and health systems as well as cost-effective micronutrient interventions such as food fortification, bio-fortification, multiple micronutrient supplementation (MMS), Vitamin A supplementation, and so on. Last but not the least, she pointed out that commitments from Governments, UN agencies, donor countries and the private sector to invest directly in nutrition are critical to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.