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AU Asks Countries to Fund Nutrition in COVID-19 Response

“As COVID-19 cases rise in Africa, the impact on nutrition and food systems cannot be denied. The threat of this new virus requires us to adopt new ways of looking and overcoming malnutrition,” said former President of Ghana John Kufuor, an ALN founding member and Nutrition Champion.
The African Union (AU) Commission has sent a position paper to member states urging them to ensure that financing for nutrition is included in their COVID-19 response and recovery plans.

Making this call through their African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN) Initiative; the Platform for Political Engagement into Nutrition, the AU urges leaders to ensure that actions and economic stimulus packages developed to combat the pandemic include plans to secure healthy and nutritious foods and ensure that they are made available and affordable to all.

“As COVID-19 cases rise in Africa, the impact on nutrition and food systems cannot be denied. The threat of this new virus requires us to adopt new ways of looking and overcoming malnutrition,” said former President of Ghana John Kufuor, an ALN founding member and Nutrition Champion.

However, many countries in Africa resorted to offering the population food rations at the height of the lockdowns they instituted to halt further spread of the viral respiratory disease. In Uganda, a number of families were offered maize flour and beans.

But recently civil society organizations involved in food advocacy wrote an open letter to President Yoweri Museveni complaining that food and nutrition security were not given the priority it deserves in the COVID-19 management. They argued that while no foods or dietary supplements can prevent or cure COVID-19 infection, healthy diets are important for supporting immune systems.

For instance, Agnes Kirabo, the Executive Director of the Food Rights Alliance pointed out that right from the beginning of the pandemic in March when standard Operating Procedures were being formulated, nothing about nutrition was being mentioned, not even in the messaging, yet proper nutrition can act both as prevention and treatment of the viral respiratory disease.

“Apparent evidence suggests diets rich in micronutrients are key weapons against the virus but hardly much information is filtering through government sources to citizens on how nutrition can boost their immunity and yet clinical and social distancing, wearing of masks have been overemphasized”.   

According to the World Health Organisation, the immune system requires the support of many nutrients. It is recommended to consume a variety of foods for a healthy and balanced diet, including whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and animal source foods. However, the agency cautions there is no single food that will prevent one from catching COVID-19.

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