‘Nutrition must be part of COVID-19 recovery plan for children’

Angela Onwuzoo

The President, Federation of African Nutrition Societies, Prof. Ngozi Nnam, says failure of governments in the African region to include nutrition in the COVID-19 recovery plan will result in drastic increase in wasting of children on the continent.

Nnam, a professor of Community and Public Health Nutrition at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka , said this was crucial, considering the fact that Africa is one of the continents that have the highest rate of malnourished children before the outbreak of the pandemic.

The professor disclosed this during an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise, stressing that the COVID-19 global pandemic had worsened the burden of child malnutrition in the region.

She noted that the pandemic, less than eight months, had reversed the gains made in the fight against under-five malnutrition for many years.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, wasting, also known as low weight for height, is a strong predictor of mortality among children under five occasioned by acute significant food shortage and/or disease.

The UN agency says that wasting is indicative of a serious problem urgently requiring a response.

Giving insight into the benefits of having nutrition component in the COVID-19 response and recovery plan, the nutritionist said, “It is very vital that nutrition is included in the COVID-19 response and recovery plan because, during this period of the pandemic, the rate of malnutrition has increased drastically, particularly wasting and underweight, among under-five children.

“Millions of children across the globe are undergoing wasting as a result of COVID-19.

“I know it took us long efforts to reduce wasting in Nigeria and other countries in Africa, but all these efforts have been lost due to the pandemic, because the increase in number of malnourished children since the outbreak of the pandemic outweighs whatever gains we have made over the years.

“There is, therefore, a serious need to include nutrition in the COVID-19 recovery plan so that we can see how to galvanise efforts to get back to where we were before, because we have gone down.

“The rate of wasting has increased drastically, not only in Nigeria but globally.

“Africa is of one the continents that have the highest rate of malnourished children in the world. So, we really need to do that because the key to good health is nutrition.

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