Covid undermines Nepal’s mother-child gains

Mobilisation of Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) across Nepal villages and towns have improved the health of mother and children, so has an investment in sectoral programs including education and sanitation.

But there are now new challenges to achieving national and global targets on nutrition, which also threatens to undermine past gains.

“The learning from the past 25 years that are incorporated in the supplement will inform and contribute to future improvements. However, we must act now, given the impact that the pandemic has had on the nutritional health of mothers and their children,” says Elke Wisch, UNICEF Representative to Nepal.

During the pandemic, most households experienced job losses or reduced income. With the Omicron-led third wave spreading across Nepal, the pandemic’s ensuing socioeconomic crisis is long from over.

This means reduced dietary intake among children and mothers. School closures will deprive many children of getting one decent meal a day. All this will add to childhood malnutrition which continues to be a major cause of death and retarded mental and physical development among younger populations

As such, UNICEF has recommended the government to improve the general public’s access to nutritious, safe, affordable, and sustainable diets. It also suggests integrating essential nutrition services into the existing service delivery platforms like family planning, antenatal, delivery and post-natal care and well-child and sick-child care and continuing to mobilise FCHVs to reach more women and children.

To disseminate factual information, advice and counselling on infant and young child feeding, healthcare workers can also use multiple communication channels such as radio, TV or social media.

But perhaps equally if not more important is strengthening local levels so that they can plan, implement and monitor nutrition programs and services, and maintain Nepal’s commitment to generating data, information, and evidence to assess progress and inform decisions.

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