Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Friday, April 3, 2020

COVID-19, food systems, and interaction with malnutrition

2 April 2020. WEBINAR. COVID-19, food systems, and interaction with malnutrition.
With COVID-19 dominating the news, is it a priority to think about ag and nutrition right now?

Recording of the webinar with a transcript
Presentation slides
Synthesis of comments and resources

With infections just starting to rise in Africa, where there is a major burden of malnutrition, the populations most affected may be different than what we have seen in higher income countries - primarily because malnutrition may leave people more vulnerable to severe illness and death. 
A critical concern is maintaining food supply and access for all. Lessons about resilience in food systems can already be seen from China - some encouraging, and some warnings to heed, about food supply in the shadow of potential input and labor shortages.

Nutrition and food systems are more urgent concerns than ever in the face of this pandemic.
COVID 19 is affecting first the developed world and gradually covering developing countries particularly in Africa. Even though the prevention mechanism is similar, the strategies that are implemented in the developed world (such as complete lock down) may not be easy and practical to the developing nations due to poverty, food insecurity and severe acute malnutrition, and many more infectious disease.

The nutrition community needs to think more critically how to prevent the burden of COVID 19 without increasing/with decreasing the burden of malnutrition, food insecurity, poverty, other infectious diseases and deaths in developing countries.

The other issue is the age group who die by COVID 19 in the developed nations may not be the same in developing countries. Because people who are infected will survive if they have good immunity, less complication and access to good health care services. However, the situation (for instance the total number of deaths per confirmed cases and population group who will from this infection) in Africa may not be the same due to the burden of HIV, TB, malnutrition and other infectious diseases. Therefore, we need to see the situation in sub-Saharan Africa differently from the developed nations.

Initial questions of the webinar organisers:
  • What do leaders need to do to protect those vulnerable from malnutrition right now, and to protect food systems to ensure that all people can access the food we need over the coming weeks and months?
  • What should be done differently in nutrition at this critical time?
  • What programs are going on in the government sectors?
  • What programs are going on in implementing partners ?
  • What evidence academia’s and research institutes are to looking? What needs to look additionally?
  • Are we able to do the current program as we planned if this crisis is going in this way? If not, what can we do differently?
  • Where is the current resource allocation for nutrition?
  • What resources are currently available for nutrition in government sectors ?
  • What resources are currently available for nutrition in partners?
  • What additional resources are needed for nutrition? How can we get this additional resources?
  • Are we able to use our current resources for the ongoing programs if this crises continue in this way ? If not, what can we do differently with the available resources to reduce the effect of COVID 19 on the burden of malnutrition?
  • Tesfaye Hailu, Ethiopian Public Health Institute: This discussion was motivated by Tesfaye's email sent to Ag2Nut-Ethiopia, copied above. 
  • Stineke Oenema, UN SCN: presented a summary of SCN's analysis of possible food environment disruptions by COVID-19, highlighting some resources and examples of actions taken to mitigate the consequences; and what UN agencies are proposing to respond to the crisis. 
  • Will Masters, Tufts University: discussed economic aspects of how supply chains and markets could change and what can keep them functioning. 
  • Selena Ahmed, Montana State University: shared lessons learned from the current situation in China, where she researches food environments. 
  • Namukolo Covic, A4NH/IFPRI: discussed nutrition and food system realities in Africa, and policy priorities to protect both. 
  • Moderator: Anna Herforth

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