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COVID-19, food systems, and interaction with malnutrition

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COVID-19, food systems, and interaction with malnutrition

With COVID-19 dominating the news, is it a priority to think about ag and nutrition right now? YES – nutrition and food systems are more urgent concerns than ever in the face of this pandemic.

  • With infections just starting to rise in Africa, where there is a major burden of malnutrition, the populations most affected may be different than what we have seen in higher income countries – primarily because malnutrition may leave people more vulnerable to severe illness and death.
  • A critical concern is maintaining food supply and access for all. Lessons about resilience in food systems can already be seen from China – some encouraging, and some warnings to heed, about food supply in the shadow of potential input and labor shortages.
  • What do leaders need to do to protect those vulnerable from malnutrition right now, and to protect food systems to ensure that all people can access the food we need over the coming weeks and months?


  • Tesfaye Hailu, Ethiopian Public Health Institute: brings the topic to the floor and outlines key questions and concerns, particularly focusing on Africa. This discussion was motivated by Tesfaye’s email sent to Ag2Nut-Ethiopia, copied at the bottom of this email.
  • Selena Ahmed, Montana State University: shares lessons learned from the current situation in China, where she researches food environments.
  • Will Masters, Tufts University: discusses economic aspects of how supply chains and markets could change and what can keep them functioning.
  • Denise Costa Coitinho, UN SCN: presents a summary of SCN’s analysis of food environments disruptions by COVID-19, highlighting some resources and examples of actions taken to mitigate the consequences; and what UN agencies are proposing to respond to the crisis.
  • Moderator: Anna Herforth, Ag2Nut: I will outline the reason for coming together, what we know about nutrition and disease interactions, and how we can use our discussion to act and speak with one voice.

This is a time to bring together our ideas as a diverse community with common interests, and harmonize our work and messages to act and speak with one voice!

Out of this discussion, we will produce a summary of ideas on what needs to be done by leaders to protect the vulnerable, and to maintain functional food systems. Ag2Nut members can then use this summary and share it with leaders with whom we work.

Focus Region:
Focus Topic:
Agricultural Value Chains / Agri-Businesses
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