May 3rd, 2020: The Nutrition Society of Nigeria remains committed to promoting the health and well-being of all Nigerians through adequate nutrition across the lifecycle despite the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is not only mopping up the financial resources of households, communities, states, and nations, it is disrupting the food system and existing strategies to address the high burden of malnutrition in Nigeria including the social protection programmes for different age groups, cash transfer programmes, school feeding programme for school-age children in public schools, community management of acute malnutrition, among other existing initiatives. It is therefore important to synergise efforts by all stakeholders to effectively manage the pandemic, promote adequate nutrition during the pandemic, and reduce post-COVID-19 burden and severity of malnutrition.
The Society hereby says that nutrition should addressed across the lifecycle as follows:
- Newborns, Infants and Young Children
- Presently, there is no evidence of transmission of the coronavirus through breastfeeding The society hereby reiterates that breastmilk alone (without accompaniments like water etc.) remains the safest and most nutritious meal for infants aged 0-6 months. Therefore, exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding up to the age of 24 months should be sustained. Mothers in isolation should be encouraged to express their breastmilk using a dedicated breast pump and observe hand hygiene and disinfection of pump and other utensils. Expressed milk should be fed to the newborn by a healthy caregiver. During rooming-in, mothers should put on a facemask and practice hand hygiene before putting the newborn to the breast.
- Complementary foods should cover at least four food groups and be served warm. Recommended meal frequencies are 2-3 times a day for ages 6-8 months and 3-4 times a day for ages 9-23 months for a breastfed child. For a non-breastfed child aged 6-23 months, meal frequency should be at least 4 times a day to provide adequate nutrition.
- School-Age Children
- School-age children, especially those in public schools and benefit from existing school feeding programmes, may be particularly disadvantaged. Parents are hereby advised to provide an extra meal per day for these children where they are capable. Also, the Federal Government effort to sustain the school feeding programme during the lockdown is commendable; the society hereby recommends, additionally, the use of community structures to reach the beneficiaries and extend the coverage of the feeding programme.
- Adolescents and Adults
- Appropriate diet and lifestyle measures are important to sustain body immunity and promote health and well-being. The lockdown offers the opportunity to reinforce health-promoting lifestyle including diet, sleep (about eight hours daily) and physical activity.
- Micronutrients are critical for health and essential in strengthening the immune system, thus eat fresh and varieties of foods.
- Roots/tubers and cereals
- Meat, poultry and fish, milk and milk products
- Fruits and vegetables (about one-third of food plate)
- Nuts and seeds
- Hydration is vital, thus intakes of about 6-8 cups of water daily is recommended.
- Limit salt and sugar intake
- Choose healthy snacks over pastries and limit consumption of soft drinks, alcohol and spirits.
- In the case of food price hikes, individuals could select alternative foods to replace usual food items. Cocoyam or sweet potato can be purchased instead of yam, white beans may be an alternative to red variety, low priced fish or edible insects may be alternative animal foods etc.
- Though transmission through food is not likely, proper food hygiene should be maintained. Handwashing should be observed after returning home, and before preparing or eating food. Food items should be washed thoroughly under running water or using vinegar.
- Presently there is no evidence on the efficacy of any dietary supplements or herbs in the prevention and management of COVID-19, every case should, therefore, be reported to the State Team for follow up and proper management.
- At this time, children should not accompany adults to the markets, shopping mall, supermarkets and other public places. Social distancing and home-stay should be religiously adhered to. This may lead to reduced physical activity with the resultant effect on energy balance, however, safe, home-based physical activities such brisk-walk within your compound, jumping jacks, skipping, push-ups, and running may be helpful, especially for overweight and obese individuals.
- Individuals are encouraged to make provision for own wipes and hand sanitizer where possible and use periodically.
- COVID-19 Infected Persons
- Nutrition support is a component of health care and should be included in the management of COVID-19 patients with attention on energy, protein and fluid balance maintenance. Also, following high mortality among older people affected by COVID-19, adequate nutrition and management of secondary conditions/infection of the older population should be ensured.
- The society calls on the Federal and State Governments to ensure the provision and proper use of personal protective equipment and hand sanitizers by all health workers and support staff to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Likewise, periodic disinfection of surface systems including doorknobs, doorways, tables, shopping cart/basket handles, elevator buttons and scales in supermarkets, market stalls, clinics, and other public facilities should be enforced.
- Loss of purchasing power, food price hikes, and panic purchase already exist, the government should make efforts to stabilize food supply and regulate food prices. Suggested measures include the release of food stocks from grain reserves, tax relief on food items, relaxation of the restriction on food distribution channels, and scale-up support for smallholder farmers. In addition, food surveillance system including monitoring of food prices is recommended.
- Lastly, Government and other stakeholders should make efforts to provide food and nutrition support to indigent households, intensify community management of acute malnutrition and similar ongoing interventions, and scale up existing social protection programmes especially for the older population
Dr Bartholomew I. C. BraiFNSN
President, Nutrition Society of Nigeria
For further information please contact:
Phone: 0803 333 9286