The European Union and UNICEF have expanded their partnership on nutrition to prevent malnutrition in children due to the socio-economic impact of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
The socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis has led to many vulnerable families across Nepal, being pushed into deeper poverty and has resulted in more children becoming malnourished. Furthermore, with Female Community Health Volunteers no longer able to regularly visit families to monitor the nutrition and health status of babies, young children and mothers in the COVID 19 physical distancing context, this has also reduced families’ access to health services.
According to a press release issued by UNICEF, the additional EU contribution of 250,000 euros to the existing joint ‘Partnership for Improved Nutrition’ will support the 'Family MUAC' intervention and empower parents and caretakers to themselves monitor the health of their children. This contribution will support new interventions enabling parents and caregivers to assess the nutritional situation of their children using a mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) tape in 308 local governments, across 30 districts. This will facilitate the early detection and referral of children with acute malnutrition to the nearest Outpatient Therapeutic Care Centres and Nutrition Rehabilitation Centres, while reducing the exposure of Female Community Health Volunteers and the community to the virus. The existing Multi-Sector Nutrition Plan (MSNP) volunteers, based in all local governments, will facilitate this new intervention and the contribution will also provide essential supplies such as ready-to-use therapeutic food.
“During the last 10 years, the European Union has supported the government of Nepal to combat malnutrition, with tangible results. However, the COVID-19 crisis is making this battle more difficult. Through increasing its financial support, the EU wants to send a strong signal to Nepal: the EU is and will be by your side to leave malnutrition behind”, said Veronica Cody, EU Ambassador to Nepal.
"Across Nepal, the socio-economic impact of the COVID 19 crisis is putting children’s lives and their futures in jeopardy as progress made on children's nutrition in the last decade is at risk of being reversed as rising numbers of children are facing malnutrition due to loss of household income and resulting food insecurity. The social and economic loss for Nepal resulting from the deterioration in children’s nutrition status will be felt long after the COVID 19 crisis is over. ", said Elke Wisch, UNICEF Representative to Nepal. “The expanded partnership with the European Union is instrumental in addressing the worst deprivations and providing solutions for the most marginalized children,” Ms. Wisch added.
Since 2016, the European Union and UNICEF have been supporting the Government of Nepal to scale up the Multi-Sector Nutrition Plan across the 30 districts that have a high prevalence of maternal and child malnutrition. The key nutrition-specific interventions have included treating malnourished children, protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding and providing Vitamin-A and other micronutrients. The nutrition-sensitive interventions have included promoting hand washing, management of kitchen gardens, and ending an early marriage, as well as supporting the related policies. This latest contribution will be shortly followed by a renewed EU support of 23.35 M euros, which will reinforce the implementation of the MSNP until the end of 2022.