The risk of increasing rates of acute malnutrition during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the urgent need to adapt, and expand access to, acute malnutrition diagnosis and treatment services in humanitarian and fragile contexts.
KEY FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Increased rates of acute malnutrition are an inevitable consequence of COVID-19 and the measures taken to slow its spread – especially in fragile and conflict affected settings where rates of acute malnutrition are already substantially higher than in stable settings.
In the face of government-mandated shutdowns, millions of people have lost their income, agriculture harvests and sales have been disrupted, food prices have increased, and aid programs focused on nutrition have been disrupted.
Acute malnutrition among children is highly treatable, but the current health facility based model for treating it may not be safe or practical within the COVID-19 context. IRC is therefore recommending malnutrition treatment programs are adapted including simplifying diagnosis and treatment processes; bringing services to the community; introducing low- or no-touch approaches; and ensuring in-patient care is safe.
Urgent action is needed to avoid preventable deaths. UN agencies should endorse the adoption of simplified approaches for the early detection and treatment of acute malnutrition as part of COVID-19 response plans and programs; donors should scale-up flexible funding for nutrition; and governments should adapt national malnutrition treatment programs and lift restrictions on the movements of humanitarian personnel, supplies and food.