In 2020, globally, 149.2 million children under the age of 5 were stunted, and 45.4 million wasted1. As COVID-19 undermined food security and nutrition through direct and indirect pathways consequent disruptions could result in an estimated additional 9.3 million wasted and 2.6 million stunted children by 2022, and an additional 168,000 child deaths.2,3,4,5
Pre-COVID-19 coverage of key nutrition interventions was about 65%, with significant inter-state variability (NFHS-4). This is likely to have worsened due to the pandemic. UNICEF has termed children as “hidden victims” of the pandemic, citing reduced coverage of life-saving free meals, vaccinations, and other services.6 A panel data study reveals a decline in household food expenditure and women’s dietary diversity especially the non-staples between March 2019 to March 2020 notwithstanding increased coverage of special PDS, direct benefit transfer, and ration from Anganwadi rations.7 India needs to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on malnutrition through the implementation of essential nutrition interventions while keeping the frontline workers safe, increasing the coverage, continuity, equity, intensity, and quality. 2,4,8
Various states stepped up to the challenge with household-level distributions of take-home ration and IFA tablets by Anganwadi and frontline workers during the pandemic.8,9 Intensified health and nutrition services in the first 1000 days is one of the four strategic pillars of Poshan Abhiyaan(NITI Aayog).10 An RTI reply by the Ministry of Women and Child Development confirms that Poshan Abhiyaan has been extended till 30th September 2021 and Poshan Abhiyaan 2.0 is under consideration.11 Our resources page includes a chronological map of nutrition-related policy response by state and nationally, while the policy matrix gives a birds-eye view of state-level developments.
To understand the state of child malnutrition, more and accurate information is required but there are data gaps and reduced monitoring coverage during the pandemic.2,4,8 The monitoring page of this website showcases the trend and current status of continuity of maternal health and child nutrition-related services for each Indian state. Many states have resumed maternal health and childcare services. Others are following suit. Additionally, this time the site showcases articles estimating the impact of the pandemic on child nutrition and health.5,12
PoshanCOVID19 initiative aims to aid policy and planning by maintaining a repository of information on child nutrition and maternal health relating to COVID-19. The data is presented in an easy-to-access and interpret format to enable evidence-based decisions.
- Joint Child Malnutrition Report, 2021.
- Lawrence Haddad. Biblical, on steroids, and across generations: The coming food and nutrition crash can be averted if we act now to counter the COVID-19 crisis.IFPRI Blog Guest Post April 2020.
- Kulkarni, B. Ensuring nutrition security for women and children during the pandemic. Outlook India. 21 July 2021.
- United Nations. Policy brief: The impact of covid-19 on food security and nutrition. June 2020.
- Osendarp, S., Akuoku, J.K., Black, R.E. et al. The COVID-19 crisis will exacerbate maternal and child undernutrition and child mortality in low- and middle-income countries. Nat Food 2, 476–484 (2021).
- UNICEF Tracking the situation of children during COVID-19 Dashboard, May 2021.
- Gupta S, Seth P, Abraham M, Pingali P. COVID-19 and women’s nutrition security: panel data evidence from rural India. Economia Politica. 2 July 2021:1-28.
- Menon P, de Wagt A, Reddy V, Reddy K, Pandav CS, Avula R, Mathews P, Kaur S, Pawar S, Ranjan S, Sharma S, Sankar R. Supporting efforts to address malnutrition in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in India: An emergency need. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth 2021;14:369-73.
- Lessons from India’s food security response.
- NITI Aayog. POSHAN Abhiyaan. Accessed 31 July 2021.
- Ministry of Women and Child Development, RTI Application Reg. No. MOWCD/R/E/21/00590. 26 July 2021.
- Anand, A. Sandefur, J. and Subramanian, A. Three new estimates of India’s all-cause excess mortality during the covid-19 pandemic. Center for Global Development. 20 July 2021.