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Child Malnutrition and COVID-19 - New UNICEF-WHO Guidance Released

Children who suffer from wasting and/or bilateral pitting oedema are up to 12 times more likely to die from common illnesses than children who are not wasted. As the COVID-19 pandemic affects many countries with fragile health systems and countries affected by a humanitarian crisis or severe food insecurity, wasted children should be prioritized as a vulnerable group.

To reduce the number of children becoming wasted, all levels of health services must deliver coordinated actions that reduce infection, improve maternal nutrition and birthweight, ensure appropriate breastfeeding and complementary feeding and care practices in the first two years of life, and facilitate the early detection of child wasting. In doing so, every effort should be made to reduce exposure to COVID-19 for children, caregivers and health workers, while ensuring continuity of these critical prevention and treatment services throughout all stages of the response. This will require efforts to adapt nutrition services based on the phase of the pandemic, to ensure the safety of routine services and minimize exposure and the risk of infection. In contexts where health systems experience partial or full closures or where there is a high level of community transmission, temporary adaptations may be required to ensure that children receive the support they need. Preventing the disruption of essential nutrition services remains key to limiting the burden of morbidity and mortality from this preventable and treatable condition.

Operation(s)/ Webspace(s): 
Organization(s): 
United Nations Children's Fund
Cluster(s)/Sector(s): 
Original Publication Date: 
07 Aug 2020
Document type: 
Communication Materials
Coordination hub(s): 
Borno State
Disaster(s)/Emergency: 
Nigeria: Complex Emergency - 2014-2020