The risk to child nutrition during and after COVID-19 pandemic: what to expect and how to respond

Public Health Nutr. 2021 Aug;24(11):3530-3536. doi: 10.1017/S1368980021001610. Epub 2021 Apr 13.


Objective: The current study aimed to address the key areas of concern for child nutrition, both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, and proposes strategic responses to reduce child undernutrition in the short and long term.

Design: A descriptive literature review was performed. The search of the literature was conducted through using electronic databases including PubMed, Web of Science, Google Scholar and Cochrane library.

Setting: A wide range of published articles focused on child malnutrition were reviewed.

Participants: The study was focused on children especially those under 5 years.

Results: The current study proposes strategic responses to reduce child undernutrition. These responses include strengthening access to community-based nutrition services that support the early detection and treatment of undernourished children and emergency food distribution, including fortified foods with vitamins and minerals, to vulnerable households, particularly those with children under 5 years. Moreover, counseling and promotion programmes should be reinforced to revitalise community nutrition education in areas such as gestation, exclusive breast-feeding and complementary feeding, and hygienic practices involving handwashing, proper sanitation and other basic behavioural changes.

Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many countries especially those in the regions of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa in which there has been an ongoing burden of child undernutrition. However, malnutrition is preventable and can be eliminated through a multisectoral strategic approach. The effective execution of a multisectoral approach towards preventing childhood malnutrition will require not only a financial investment but also the collective efforts from different ministries of the governments, UN-affiliated agencies and non-governmental organisations.

Keywords: COVID-19; Child nutrition; Intervention; Nutrition education; Undernutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara / epidemiology
  • Asia / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Child Nutrition Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Child Nutrition Disorders* / prevention & control
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • Risk