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LET’S TALK NUTRITION: Covid-19 & Food/Nutrition Security

I’m pretty sure a lot of us know COVID-19 or the Coronavirus and how it has changed our lives. However, I’ll just give a bit of a background so we’re all on the same page.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered virus, the “coronavirus” where persons infected may experience mild to moderate respiratory illness. This virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

As at today, the 1st of June 2021, one hundred and seventy-one million cases have been recorded globally with three million, five hundred and fifty thousand deaths. Today, in Nigeria, one hundred and sixty-six thousand, five hundred and eighteen cases have been recorded with two thousand, ninety-nine deaths. The pandemic has affected the daily life of people in many ways. There have been lockdowns, schools, offices and other public buildings were closed, a lot of people were laid off of work, and so on.

Now that we’re all up to speed, let’s begin!!!

Nigeria is already a very fragile country in terms of its economy and security. We struggled to get out of recession for some time and now, the security situation keeps getting worse.

More so, there is a lot of poverty in Nigeria and many people cannot even afford 3 meals a day, and now, they may not even be able to eat the little they were eating.

In the longer term, the combined effects of COVID-19 itself, as well as corresponding mitigation measures and the emerging global recession could, without large-scale coordinated action, disrupt the functioning of food systems. Such disruptions can result in severe consequences for health and nutrition.

According to the United Nation’s World Food Programme, around 110 million Nigerians live below the poverty line. That’s literally over 60% of the population!!! 😟 The resulting drop in purchasing power among those who lost income and jobs as a result of the COVID-19 has had a major impact on food security and nutrition, especially for those populations that were already vulnerable in Nigeria. You can see that millions of people were already suffering from hunger and malnutrition before the virus hit and, unless immediate action is taken, we may see a global, food emergency and children may be the worst hit. These numbers are growing rapidly as millions of school children are missing out on daily school meals on which they depend. The pandemic could push millions of people into extreme poverty and is expected to result in an additional number of stunted children. In addition, local disruptions to food supply chains during the COVID-19 lockdowns affected perishable food items leading to food waste and fewer fresh foods available in markets (fruits, vegetables, dairy, etc.) which led to poor diets and probably new malnutrition cases.

I make bold to say that action is needed to ensure that the COVID-19 crisis does not cause a food and malnutrition crisis. Parents need to continue to ensure that their families consume adequate, diets as these are key for boosting immunity and preventing non-communicable diseases that are risk factors for higher COVID-19 morbidity and mortality.

As part of Nigeria’s COVID-19 response efforts it is important to:

-Improve social services to protect the poor and most vulnerable from hunger and malnutrition.

-Efforts must be geared up to preserve and promote proper nutrition, including exclusive breastfeeding to build the resilience of individuals and communities

-It is important to protect breastfeeding and ensure timely access to complementary and therapeutic foods for infants and young children, as well as micronutrient supplements and other essential nutrition commodities in the face of the pandemic.

-The Government must ensure that they provide farmers with farming machineries as it will aid agricultural productivity which will reduce food insecurity in the long run.

-The Government must also ensure that they make it a priority to improve the country’s security situation because of its negative impacts on the economy.

-The private sector can support the capacity smallholder farmers, small and medium-sized enterprises, and local civil society organizations to continue producing and delivering affordable, adequate, safe, diverse and culturally appropriate foods in the face of COVID-19.

-Nigeria needs to create and scale-up the use of frequent food security monitoring systems to provide up-to-date information on the impacts of the outbreak and understand better who is most at risk.

We are likely to have a pandemic within a pandemic if we don’t take action. And by this other pandemic, I mean a “malnutrition pandemic”.

I hope I have been able to educate you today; I hope you are doing well and always remember to make your nutritional heath a priority. 👍🏽