COVID-19 undermined food security and nutrition through direct and indirect pathways which were projected to result in higher child undernutrition and mortality.1,2 It is critical that future policy direction take note of several key aspects. The pandemic disrupted facility-based services where existing manpower was mobilized to support COVID-related services in countries like India. This resulted in reduced coverage of key health and nutrition services. This is likely to have had a spill over effect on the health and cognitive development of children in the future.3 One study observed the negative food security and mental health impacts of the pandemic during the containment period. In this context, the importance of social safety nets has also been stressed.4 From a public health and sustainability perspective, the changes in dietary behaviours are important.5,6
Maintaining continuity and improving coverage of key health and nutrition services is a key starting point. In India, various policy and program adaptations were undertaken to ensure continuity in the delivery of nutrition services.7 The use of technology, flexibility, and decentralized decision-making have been the hallmarks of innovations and adaptations during the pandemic which also can shape the future course of action.8 The PoshanCOVID19 monitoring page updates the continuity of key maternal and child health services section of 14 states of India monthly. Data for March 2022 for 8 states shows that in all states, the number of services that were functional either increased or stayed the same compared to the same period last year.9
As the pandemic recedes, fast-tracking restoration efforts as well as making systematic changes for the long term is critical. During the pandemic, the beneficial role of nutrients in dealing with Covid-19 was discussed.10 In India, nutrition education and advocacy including dietary recommendations constituted a critical part of government efforts to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.11-12 In a post-pandemic scenario also nutrition education on adult nutrition and IYCF practices in addition to social and behavioral change communication can be important components of nutrition programming.13 Improving health workforce capacities is critical in ensuring continuity of essential health services. Health worker recruitment, retention and training, risk communication, and community engagement are a few technical areas that need to be given due consideration in strategies.14 Additionally, systems must focus on strengthening multi-disciplinary collaboration between different stakeholders, strengthening primary healthcare systems, and enabling community empowerment.13
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.
- UN. (2021). Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021. United Nations.
- FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2021. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021. Transforming food systems for food security, improved nutrition and affordable healthy diets for all. Rome, FAO. https://doi.org/10.4060/cb4474en.
- CPR. (2021). Experiences of Frontline Workers in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh during Covid-19 Pandemic. Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi
- Bau, N., Khanna, G., Low, C., Shah, M., Sharmin, S., & Voena, A. (2022). Women’s Well-being During a Pandemic and its Containment. Journal of development economics, 156, 102839.
- Wilkins, J. L. (2020). Challenges and opportunities created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of nutrition education and behavior, 52(7), 669.
- Menon, L., Choudhury, D. R., Ronto, R., Sengupta, R., Kansal, S., & Rathi, N. (2022). Transformation in culinary behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic: In-depth interviews with food gatekeepers in urban India. Appetite, 105948.
- WFP. (2021). School Meals in India – Tracking State Government Response to COVID-19 April- June 2021. UN World Food Programme, India.
- UNICEF. (n.d.) Innovations and Adaptations- Nutrition response in India during COVID-19 pandemic
- UNICEF. (2022). Poshan Covid-19 Continuity of Services. Poshan Covid-19 Monitoring.
- Calcuttawala, F. (2022). Nutrition as a key to boost immunity against COVID-19. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN.
- NHM, Poshan Abhiyaan, Govt of Uttar Pradesh. (N.D). Video on providing support for breastfeeding to a mother affected by COVID
- ICMR. (n.d.). Nutrition, Lifestyle & Immunity. ICMR-NIN
- Ntambara, J., & Chu, M. (2021). The risk to child nutrition during and after COVID-19 pandemic: what to expect and how to respond. Public Health Nutrition, 24(11), 3530-3536.
- WHO. (2021). Third round of the global pulse survey on continuity of essential health services during the COVID-19 pandemic