Purpose and Background: This document was developed under the auspices of USAID’s Nutrition Leadership Council (NLC). It summarizes the likely impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on nutrition and proposes guiding principles for priority actions during the response and recovery phases. The crisis is creating shocks across multiple sectors and systems that are essential to improving and safeguarding nutrition. In a vicious cycle, shocks to nutritional status will increase morbidity and mortality and are likely to increase populations’ vulnerability to adverse outcomes.

Shock Pathways: Disruption of livelihoods and food systems limit access to safe, nutritious foods. Disruptions in health systems and humanitarian response weaken delivery of vital nutrition interventions. Disruptions to social protection programs further undermine access to safe, nutritious food and health services.

Priority Actions During Response: Immediate priorities are to safeguard access to safe, nutritious foods, particularly for young children and pregnant and lactating women; continue to promote and protect breastfeeding; and maintain delivery of life-saving nutrition interventions through health systems and humanitarian response while minimizing risks of transmission. Priority actions include:

  • Food Systems Programming (p.6): Promote commercial production and support market measures for safe and nutritious foods; maintain local production of nutrient dense foods.
  • Health Systems Programming (p.7-9): Promote and protect breastfeeding; complementary feeding; vitamin A supplementation (VAS); management of wasting and acute malnutrition; maternal nutrition counseling and supplementation.
  • Humanitarian Assistance and Safety Net Programming (p.9-10): Continue to provide essential health and nutrition services while reducing direct contact with beneficiaries; safeguard social protection programs with an increased focus on supporting access to nutritious foods and nutrition services.