Robust investment in food security and nutrition programs tailor-made for vulnerable demographics including children, women and the elderly is key to hastening Africa’s recovery from COVID-19 related shocks, experts said.
The experts and policymakers who spoke at a virtual roundtable in Nairobi on Thursday evening said that robust action on Africa’s malnutrition crisis worsened by the pandemic was a prerequisite in order to secure a sustainable future for communities. “We need adequate financing and political goodwill in order to tackle malnutrition and childhood stunting that worsened during the pandemic amid restricted supply of food due to lockdowns,” said Gladys Mugambi, Head of Nutrition Program in Kenya’s Ministry of Health. Mugambi said that improved nutrition will have positive economic and social outcomes in the sub-Saharan African region where the pandemic has worsened poverty, hunger, job losses and inequality.
The virtual roundtable to discuss the growing malnutrition crisis in the East and Southern African region was organized by Global Nutrition Report (GNR) and Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement. It sought to raise awareness on the declining nutrition status in the region amid pandemic-related disruptions in the agriculture sector. Gerda Verburg, coordinator of SUN movement and UN assistant secretary-general said that improved nutrition outcomes are key to accelerate Africa’s recovery from the pandemic. “We need proactive measures to improve food and nutrition outcomes in Africa during the pandemic. Proper nutrition is the cornerstone of healthy societies,” said Verburg.
She said that Africa required robust policies, political goodwill and private sector investments to boost food and nutrition security amid rising number of stunted and malnourished children during the pandemic. Renata Micha, Chair of the Global Nutrition Report said that targeted interventions like exclusive breastfeeding and bio-fortification are key to address malnutrition in Africa. “There is a need to build resilient food systems and reduce the burden of stunting and undernourishment in Africa during this era of COVID-19 pandemic,” said Micha.