16 January 2023

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on diets, nutrition services & nutrition practices in UNICEF's ESAR

The COVID-19 pandemic and related economic crisis have impacted food systems and delivery of health services with negative consequences to the nutrition of the most vulnerable women and children worldwide. The Eastern and Southern Africa Region (ESAR) nutrition section undertook research in 2021 to understand the impact of the pandemic on the diets, services and practices in the Eastern and Southern Africa region.  An initial review was first undertaken, the results of which can be found here.  Following this, remote surveys were undertaken in six countries in ESAR to reveal the extent of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on diets, services and practices. Results showed that one fifth of all caregivers reported reduced breastfeeding, and there were widely reported reductions in diet diversity and consumption of animal source foods among children, adolescents, and pregnant and lactating mothers. Reduced consumption of unhealthy drinks and snacks and increased consumption of micronutrient rich foods were also commonly reported. Dietary changes were driven by reduced household incomes and higher food prices. A very high level of food insecurity was reported by this respondent group and disruptions in the delivery of nutrition services were commonly reported by both health workers and service users. The survey provides important learning for the future use of remote methods for collecting nutrition data. Available here are the technical report, full report and country briefs for each of the six countries studied.