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Nutrition can’t wait: let’s protect the vulnerable.

Malnutrition multiplies the threat of disease. A malnourished person has a higher chance of falling sick, staying sick, or even dying. Their immunity is lowered, increasing their susceptibility to infection. On the other hand, being sick increases your risk of being malnourished, setting in motion a vicious cycle.

With the COVID pandemic, people suffering from malnutrition and related diseases are experiencing worse symptoms from COVID even death.

The pandemic has not only exposed inequities in health and nutrition services, but also disrupted the inequitable services.

Now nutrition is critical in the fight against COVID. As a matter of fact, nutrition resilience, is among the factors that determine communities’ capacity to combat the pandemic. However, for people already suffering the consequences of inequities such as women, children, the elderly, the poor, people living in conflict areas, refugees, among other marginalized populations, it is important that they are protected, especially since a majority of these people rely on public services. As such, preventive as well as curative nutrition services must not be disrupted as this would gravely affect survival, health and development, particularly in children.

Priority areas of action therefore include prioritizing these disadvantaged individuals while implementing COVID response, while maintaining delivery of the essential services such as maternal and infant nutrition, including breastfeeding, as well as making available essential services. It also includes providing social protection. Many people have lost their livelihoods and this makes them vulnerable to both malnutrition and ill health. Many therefore need social protection interventions that support livelihoods and or food security. This could include feeding children in areas where school feeding has been disrupted.

It is also important to sustain the local food supply system. This means supporting small and medium scale farmers to produce and supply affordable, nutritious, adequate, diverse, safe and culturally acceptable food. It is doing this for women led businesses and farmers to alleviate the unfair care burden they experience. Further, it is integrating nutrition in the COVID response interventions.

We indeed face the danger of increasing acute malnutrition among children under five as well as food insecurity due to the pandemic. This will water down the gains we have so far made in the fight against malnutrition and food insecurity. As such, and as is recommended in the most recent global nutrition report, ‘we need strengthened coordination, alignment, financing and accountability’ to protect what we have achieved so far.


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Christine Nderitu

As a licensed Nutritionist and Public Health Practitioner, Christine, helps people lead healthy lifestyles through education and behaviour change practices that are simple and practical. Her area of expertise lies not just in nutrition management but in health education and promotion in HIV/AIDS, Adolescent Health, Maternal and Child Health as well as Non-Communicable Diseases, which she has engaged in for a decade. She is also a columnist in a leading local Daily. Christine has a keen interest in Non-Communicable Diseases prevention and control. She feels that the world needs more stories that celebrate and normalize desired (good) behaviour, and humanity. “We have many preventable and often manmade public health issues today.”