Successfully addressing the pandemic requires a more comprehensive approach factoring together health and food systems. Growing global hunger poses a menacing new threat to human health and resilience to disease.
The triple impact of COVID-19-related disruptions in food, health, and social protection systems have already reversed recent progress made with severe consequences on human capital. If we do not act to protect infants during the critical first 1000 days from conception to 24 months of age, their growth and development will be permanently affected by consequent nutritional deficiencies. The Standing Together for Nutrition Consortium estimates that by 2022 - COVID-19 could result in an additional 9.3 million wasted, 2.6 million stunted children, 168,000 additional child-deaths, 2.1 million maternal anaemia cases and US$30 billion future productivity losses due to excess stunting and child mortality.
Malnutrition compromises immune systems, making it more likely for co-morbidities to take hold which can amplify the severity of the impacts of COIVD-19 infections. Moreover, families facing malnutrition are less likely to curtail their economic activity to stop the spread of COVID-19: they simply have no choice. The prevention and treatment of malnutrition is essential for every COVID-19 package.
We urge all member states to prioritise nutrition in line with the objectives of the Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit: to increase and optimize coverage of effective nutrition interventions for pregnant women and children; safeguard social protection systems, emphasizing facilitated access to, or provision of nutritious foods; and incorporate the delivery of effective nutrition interventions into national COVID-19 response plans.
We urge the Executive Board and WHA-fora to work closely with the Food System Summit and N4G to build integrated strategies to address rising malnutrition.