Nutrition risk of children widens during the COVID-19 pandemic; adequate diets necessary for optimal growth, health and development
The number of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in children up to 14 years of age in Odisha were more than five per cent of the cases as of July 28, 2020, with stark regional variations across districts.
The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic will continue for several more months, with a huge burden on the public healthcare system, including in child nutrition and development aspects.
The nutrition risk and healthcare vulnerability of children widened to an unprecedented scale during the pandemic. Nutritionally, an adequate diet is necessary for optimal growth, health and the physical and mental development of children.
Inadequate nutrition and accessibility can result in undernutrition, especially stunting and micronutrient deficiencies leading to infant and child morbidity and mortality.
Nutritious complementary foods like fruits and fresh vegetables, along with breastfeeding can reduce stunting among children. Stunting in early life is found to have long-term adverse effects on the health, physical growth, cognitive development, learning and earning potential of children.
Analysing 36 countries’ maternal, child under-nutrition and survival data, a study published by think-thank Observer Research Foundation, found dietary diversity through nutrition gardens is an effective strategy to improve nutrition status.
Locally available fresh vegetables and fruits from the homestead or nutrition gardens are a major and affordable way of ensuring availability of healthy food, balanced diet, dietary diversity, nutrition and micronutrients.
Several past studies also suggested homestead or nutrition gardens to be effective, innovative and sustainable strategies for improving nutritional standards, household food production, food security, employment of youth as an alternative way to generate extra income and nutritional status of households.
Nutrition gardens tend to improve the household consumption of nutritious food, promote dietary diversity and increase the quantity of fruits and vegetables consumed in the household.
More than four (43 per cent) of every 10 children up to six years were under-nourished, with child malnutrition being a major concern, according to the latest World Bank estimates.
Globally, more than two-fifth (45 per cent) of all deaths in children under five years were linked to poor nutrition. Among the countries, India was second in the number of children suffering from malnutrition.