Africa reeling from spike in hunger, malnutrition and NCDs due to Covid-19

Nairobi: Many African countries are reeling from a spike in hunger, malnutrition and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) due to the Covid-19 pandemic-linked disruptions on the continent’s food production systems, scientists have said.

Addressing a virtual forum here on Thursday, Margaret Karembu, chair of Africa Life Science Knowledge Hub, said that inability of the continent’s low-income population to access nutritious diets has escalated the dual crisis of malnutrition and lifestyle diseases, reports Xinhua news agency.

“Our communities have been challenged in terms of what they eat due to Covid-19 pandemic leading to a high burden of malnutrition and non-communicable diseases,” Karembu said.

She said that the high prevalence of non-communicable diseases like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory ailments is to blame for severe forms of Covid-19 and fatalities in Africa.

Karembu said that awareness targeting African policymakers and community health practitioners is key to raising the visibility of linkage between coronavirus and lifestyle diseases.

Deoraj Caussy, an epidemiologist at Mauritius Academy of Science and Technology, said that disruptions to agriculture value chains linked to the pandemic derailed Africa’s quest to eradicate hunger and malnutrition.

He said that job losses and hike in food prices witnessed at the onset of the pandemic in the continent worsened nutrition insecurity among groups that are predisposed to chronic diseases including the elderly.

The pandemic derailed access to food supplements among the poor and terminally ill in the continent, thus exposing them to the risk of life-long deformities, said Caussy, who added the cost of managing non-communicable diseases in Africa is estimated at $2.5 trillion annually and their high prevalence has undermined efforts to reduce Covid deaths.

Sheryl L. Hendriks, director of the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Wellbeing with the University of Pretoria, South Africa, said the pandemic has exposed the fragility of food and nutrition security interventions in Africa.

According to Hendriks, African governments should enact policies to address the underlying causes of malnutrition including poverty, obsolete farming systems and gender inequality.


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