The onset of COVID-19 and the related economic crisis and the food and health system disruptions threatened to exacerbate undernutrition in low- and middle-income countries. By 2022, COVID-19-related disruptions were estimated to result in an additional 9.3 million wasted children and 2.6 million stunted children.1 Recent data of NFHS 5 survey (2019-21) shows that child undernutrition remained high in India—35.5% children under 5 years were stunted and 32.1% were underweight.2 As the third wave recedes and the restrictions are eased, it is time to fast track the restoration efforts.
Large-scale coordinated action is critical to mitigate the immediate impacts of the pandemic and prevent the disruption in the functioning of the food systems. This includes efforts to reshape the food systems so that they support healthy diets for all and various efforts to make food production and consumption sustainable.3 In India, the Targeted Public Distribution System served as an important safety net to ensure food security when food grain supply chains were constrained.4 However, as one study has pointed out, the dietary diversity has reduced as the consumption of subsidized food grains increased in rural households. In this context, kitchen gardens are seen as a viable approach.5 Re-directing locally produced horticultural crops to households under current nutrition programmes like ICDS can be another approach to improve dietary diversity of children.6 Given the importance of behavioural change and awareness, nutrition related advocacy including dietary related guidelines constituted a critical part of government and civil society efforts to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.7, 8, 9
Ensuring uninterrupted delivery of nutrition services is critical. Government at the national and state levels in India have issued several guidelines to ensure such continuity. Various adaptations have been undertaken to ensure continuity in delivery of nutrition services. Use of technology, flexibility and decentralized decision making were hallmarks of innovations and adaptations undertaken by nutrition service providers during the pandemic.10 Data of January, 2022 shows that in most states, the number of services that were functional either increased or stayed the same compared to the same period last year.11 The status of services can be fully examined on the PoshanCOVID19 monitoring page which tracks the continuity of key maternal and child health services in 13 states.
To understand the state of nutrition and food security in India, more accurate information is required but there are significant gaps in data. In this context, the PoshanCOVID19 initiative aims to aid policy and planning by maintaining a repository of information on child nutrition and maternal health and related topics in the context of COVID-19. The resources page is an archive for COVID-19 related resources on nutrition, early childhood development, and food security. The monitoring page consolidates data to monitor the interactions between COVID-19 and nutrition which are presented in an easy-to-access and interpret format to enable evidence-based decisions.
- Osendarp, S., Akuoku, J. K., Black, R. E., Headey, D., Ruel, M., Scott, N., … & Heidkamp, R. (2021). The COVID-19 crisis will exacerbate maternal and child undernutrition and child mortality in low-and middle-income countries. Nature Food, 2(7), 476-484.
- UNICEF. (n.d.) Early Childhood- Manifestation. Nutrition India Info.
- United Nations. Policy brief: The impact of covid-19 on food security and nutrition. June 2020.
- WFP & Government of India. (n.d.). Food Security Response during COVID-19 and PDS Best Practices in some States/UTs.
- Suresh, V., Fishman, R., von Lieres, J. S., & Rao, B. R. (2022). Impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the economic situation and food security of rural households in India. Journal of Agribusiness in Developing and Emerging Economies.
- Alvi, M., & Gupta, M. (2020). Learning in times of lockdown: how Covid-19 is affecting education and food security in India. Food security, 12(4), 793-796.
- ICMR. (n.d.). Nutrition, Lifestyle & Immunity. ICMR-NIN
- UNICEF. (n.d.) Guidance on Helping Parents to Promote Early Childhood Development in Times of COVID-19
- NHM, Poshan Abhiyaan, Govt of Uttar Pradesh. (n.d). Video on providing support for breastfeeding to a mother affected by COVID
- UNICEF. (n.d.) Innovations and Adaptations- Nutrition response in India during COVID-19 pandemic
- UNICEF. (2022). Poshan Covid-19 Continuity of Services January 2022.