The COVID-19 pandemic is undermining nutrition across the world, particularly in low-income and middle income countries (LMICs).1 Even prior to COVID-19 there are millions of families worldwide living on poor diets; either through poverty or from a lack of understanding of the principles of optimal nutrition. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned a worrying situation into a critical one. Tens of millions of families dependent on casual labor and daily wages have been made destitute.1,2 Oxfam predicts an additional 500 million people will be driven into poverty.3 The effects will be felt worst by young children.1, 4-6
Early childhood is a period of rapid growth and organ development.7 This requires foods with very high nutrient densities; much higher than in later life. Nutrients that need to be laid down in the growing tissues are especially critical; protein, calcium, zinc, iron and polyunsaturated fatty acids. 8 An absence of some of these nutrients (protein, energy, zinc and riboflavin) limit a child’s growth and lead to stunting and wasting.8
Iron is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies worldwide. It is estimated that about 1.6 billion people worldwide suffer from iron deficiency anemia with Africa, Asia and South America identified as most affected continents.3 Iron deficiency anaemia can have an effect on immune function9 and may have an impact on the cognitive and physical development of children10-12 making iron deficiency anaemia a public health issue.3
Learn more in infographic below, including alleviating the impact of COVID-19 – now and post-pandemic - on child nutrition and iron deficiency anaemia rates, which can be achieved through a combination of practical strategies which support the mother and child.