At the core of our mission, MAMAH strives to promote the nutritional needs for the nutritionally most vulnerable groups in our communities – the young children, the pregnant and lactating mothers, and the People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV). With the COVID-19 pandemic these groups are facing rising nutritional insecurity as a result of the lockdown measures and their entire health is under serious threat.
Taking an example of PLHIV, just as important as taking ARVs is the access to food – otherwise their bodies weaken and fail to handle the drugs! Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic these people were running their small businesses – selling snacks at school canteens, running restaurants, selling general merchandise in open markets, making handcrafts for tourists, …all these were shuttered and some are gone forever! For some kids, the only meals were those taken at school! With the shutdown, came the breakdown of the food chain due to constrained mobility and consequently under-nutrition especially for the most vulnerable. Inevitably these people are now focused on
survival – eating the cheapest, easier to obtain nutritionally deficient food (fall in dietary quality & quantity) This is very damaging to the nutritional status and so the health of the children, mothers especially the pregnant and lactating, and the PLHIV. When demand
for food increases yet supply is declining, the women suffer most; the Self-sacrificing practices of mothers –when they prioritize everybody else & they come last, and food rationing to overcome the shortages.
Yet the pregnant & lactating women face additional risks of constrained access to antenatal & post-natal services (nutritional education, micro-nutrient supplementation, family planning, immunization) due to an over-burdened healthcare system that is struggling to respond to COVID-19.
As such, we need to develop appropriate strategies to address the situation. Immediate and long-term actions are needed to avoid a catastrophe. We need to support the families to continue food production, we need to find strategies for community-based management of acute malnutrition, we need to attend to the most vulnerable; promote diet diversification, and continued access to essential services at health facilities among others.