The spread of COVID-19, an unprecedented health emergency, has triggered an economic crisis touching nearly every corner of the world. The severity of the coronavirus, strain on health services, devastation of international trade and implications of social distancing measures are causing ripple effects across economies, and introducing new threats to health and wellbeing, particularly for the world’s most vulnerable.
Millions of people living in poverty – particularly in Africa and Asia – will be heavily impacted by the pandemic and its aftershocks. Not only because of crowded conditions where handwashing and social distancing are a challenge, but because so many are immunocompromised or carry underlying conditions, often caused by malnutrition.
As countries divert limited resources to treating immediate medical needs, economic shutdowns disrupt supply chains and the contraction of the informal economy devastates purchasing power, nutritious food and basic health services are becoming more difficult to access. Meanwhile, overwhelmed health systems are struggling to provide routine services, and fear is keeping people from seeking the care they need.
Combined, these factors have put the world on the brink of a malnutrition crisis, which has the potential to be even more devastating than COVID-19 itself.