By: Irshad Danish, Nutrition International and Alison Farnham MA, MMedSci, Action for Development
Nutrition Can’t Wait – The COVID-19 pandemic is a health and human crisis threatening the food security and nutrition of millions of people around the world. Low and lower middle-income countries are more affected. Their existing poor development indicators and fragile health and food systems are likely to increase a population’s vulnerability to adverse COVID-19 outcomes. It is evident that limited nutritional and health services due to lockdowns, and strained health systems, will increase morbidity and mortality. Similarly, insufficient livelihood opportunities and weak food systems will undermine access to nutritious, safe and affordable foods.
While the newly released State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report does not include the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, SOFI estimates it will add up to 132 million to the 2020 undernutrition estimates. A recent study conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the Lancet Global Health Journal reveals that, based on the worst of three scenarios in 118 low- and middle-income countries, an additional 1.2 million under-five child deaths could occur in just six months, due to reductions in routine health service coverage levels and an increase in child wasting. An additional 6,000 children could die every day from preventable causes over the next six months as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to weaken health systems and disrupt routine services. The researchers estimate that in the next six months up to 300,000 children could die in India alone; 95,000 in Pakistan, 28,000 in Bangladesh, 13,000 in Afghanistan, and 4,000 in Nepal.
The current situation demands that global leaders, governments, donors, private sectors, civil society and other actors must act now to protect and promote the right to health and nutrition and reduce vulnerabilities of women and children impacted by COVID-19. The key priorities at this moment should be to ensure access to safe, nutritious foods, particularly for young children and pregnant and lactating women, to continue to promote and protect breastfeeding, and maintain delivery of life-saving nutrition interventions through health systems and humanitarian response while minimizing risks of transmission.
The SUN CSA Asia Coordination Group
The SUN Civil Society Asia Coordination Group (ACG) is a group of 13 Civil Society Alliances (CSAs), established on January 13, 2017, to enable continued collaboration among CSAs in the Asia Region for effective implementation of national nutrition plans through information sharing, knowledge exchange and implementation of joint advocacy opportunities. Current ACG members include Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Laos, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam.
In line with the SUN Movement vision; by 2030, a world free from malnutrition in all its forms and to prevent the setbacks in progress towards this goal that COVID-19 threatens, the ACG has established an Advocacy Group to support regional CSAs in campaigning to protect and promote the right to safe and healthy food and adequate nutrition to prevent maternal and child deaths during COVID-19 and beyond.
The ACG Advocacy Campaign
In order to support civil society to act now to protect and promote the right to health and nutrition and reduce vulnerabilities of women and children impacted by COVID-19 the campaign will focus on the following specific objectives:
- Highlight the importance of nutrition during COVID-19 and beyond
- Prioritize nutrition in COVID-19 response, recovery and resilience programs
- Maintain delivery of life-saving nutrition interventions through health systems and humanitarian response while minimizing risks of Infection
- Mobilize policy and financial commitments to maintain and scale-up nutrition programs
Led by the SUN Civil Society Asia Coordination Group (ACG) with support from SUN Civil Society Network Secretariat, campaign activities will be implemented with the support of SUN Civil Society Alliances in the Asia region and globally. Starting in August 2020, the campaign will initially focus on breastfeeding and complementary feeding of young children and will include events based around World Breastfeeding Week held from 1st-7th August.
The first phase of the campaign will run until December 2020, focusing on these thematic areas:
- The right to Food and Nutrition
- The importance of Maternal, Adolescent, Infant and Young Child Nutrition
- Breastfeeding and complementary feeding – Full compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (BMS)
- Sustain, maintain and scale-up essential health and nutrition services for all, particularly for young children and pregnant and lactating women.
Two further areas; budgetary allocations for nutrition specific and nutrition sensitive sectors and strengthening of health and food systems will be taken up in the 2nd phase of the campaign in next year while continuing to build momentum towards the Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit which will be hosted by the Government of Japan in Dec 2021.
Support the Campaign
Regional CSAs can support the campaign by disseminating campaign messages and sharing relevant photos, videos and information about CSA activities with the hashtag #NutritionCantWait
For more information and to be kept up to date on the campaign, please contact Irshad Danish, ACG Coordinator at email@example.com
World Breastfeeding Week (1st-7th August)
World Food Day (16th October)
Committee on World Food Security (12th-16th October)
World Children’s Day (20th November)
Human Rights Day (10th December)