A Commitment To Nutrition:Act Now!

A diverse group of nutrition stakeholders have joined hands to ensure that COVID-19 does not derail the government’s malnutrition programmes

Pratima Mathews | Aug 05, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed serious risks to the nutritional status of hundreds and millions of children and adults worldwide. In the current crisis, where malnutrition can affect the course of the pandemic, it is highly pertinent that the issue of nutrition is addressed with multi-pronged and multisectoral actions. Therefore, a broad range of stakeholders working on nutrition in India, have joined forces to ensure that a strong focus is maintained on nutrition during these unprecedented times, as the country grapples with the short- and long-term shocks of COVID-19 pandemic.

With the launch of POSHAN Abhiyaan, or National Nutrition Mission, in March 2018, India’s nutrition journey has witnessed recent successes in strengthening nutrition programming and improving nutrition for the most vulnerable groups of people. To ensure that these achievements are not derailed by the current COVID-19 pandemic, this diverse group of nutrition stakeholders, working on various areas of technical and implementation support, research and advocacy, have pledged their renewed Commitment to Action for supporting efforts by the government and all of society in response to this unprecedented challenge.

Through extensive discussions, the group has come to a consensus that the below mentioned key areas require urgent action to ensure that continued focus is maintained on nutrition in the current context of COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Sustain leadership for food and nutrition security within the Prime Ministerial and Chief Ministerial Offices and District Magistrates and Panchayats to ensure that POSHAN Abhiyaan is implemented as planned till 2022, and extended till 2025, with ambitious targets and accompanying actions.

2.Ensure uninterrupted universal and high-quality coverage of selected evidence-informed essential nutrition interventions, with a special focus on children under two years of age, pregnant women and adolescent girls.

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3.Ensure adequate financing to deliver at scale the essential nutrition interventions with active attention to equity.

4.Accelerate efforts during the crisis to address food security, including dietary diversity and access to adequate micronutrients, primary health care, safe drinking water, environmental, household sanitation and address gender issues pertaining to women’s education and delaying age of conception.

5.Retain nutrition as a development indicator and continue to invest in data systems for periodic data-driven updates on the state of food and nutrition security as the COVID-19 crisis evolves.

6.Leverage the current COVID-19 scenario to emphasize a collective multisectoral approach and strengthen holistic systems for nutrition – food systems, health systems, social protection systems and community systems.

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The full document on Commitment to Action is available on the website of the Coalition for Food and Nutrition Security in India HERE. It provides a detailed list of essential commitments under each of the six specific areas, and the reasons why they are needed. Anyone who is willing to join this collective endeavour to support and strengthen actions for safeguarding nutrition security in India during these unprecedented times, can express their commitment by adding their name HERE.

At the global level, leaders of four United Nations agencies - United Nations Children's Fund, Food and Agriculture Organization, Word Food Programme and World Health Organization - have recently issued a call for action to protect children's right to nutrition in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. According an article published on it in The Lancet, the urgent actions to protect children’s right to nutrition during COVID-19 pandemic, include safeguarding and
promoting access to nutritious, safe, and affordable diets; investing in improving maternal and child nutrition through pregnancy, infancy, and early childhood; re-activating and scaling up services for the early detection and treatment of child wasting; maintaining the provision of nutritious and safe school meals for vulnerable children; and expanding social protection to safeguard access to nutritious diets and essential services.

This call further accentuates the urgency of the specific actions around which the nutrition community in India has garnered support. While standing in solidarity with the global call, the nutrition community in India highlights its unwavering commitment to support the Government of India and the key nutrition stakeholders at all levels around the specific key areas, as mentioned in the Commitment to Action.

For an overview, and to add your support directly, please click HERE before the closing date of August 12, 2020.

(The author is a Senior Communications Specialist (POSHAN) at International Food Policy Research Institute )