A mother consults with a nurse at one of Action Against Hunger’s Health & Nutrition Centers in Somalia.

Innovations and COVID-19 Adaptations in the Management of Child Wasting

To ensure that lifesaving services – such as detecting and treating malnutrition – continue safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, nutrition agencies around the world, including Action Against Hunger, have implemented a range of adaptations to their programs.

For example, specific adaptations in managing cases of acute malnutrition that are designed to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission include:

  • Applying low- or no-touch detection techniques, including involving parents and caregivers in detecting malnutrition in their own children through the Family MUAC approach, to maintain social distance between health workers and patients;
  • Conscientiously organizing child and caregiver visits to clinics (e.g. by reducing the frequency of follow-up visits or increasing the number of outpatient days per week) to reduce the size of crowds at clinics; and,
  • Delocalizing from clinics to dispersed platforms in communities (e.g. with support from community health workers) to ensure continued access to treatment services and minimize required travel.

These types of adaptations aim to ensure that critical lifesaving malnutrition treatment services continue to reach children in need, while helping to keep both staff and community members safe. Furthermore, many of these adaptations are not new: they build on evidence generated from previous research, including studies conducted by Action Against Hunger, as part of ongoing innovation efforts to increase the quality and accessibility of nutrition services.

While COVID-19 presents unique challenges, the now widespread implementation of these adaptations offered a new and unprecedented opportunity to capture lessons learned to inform not only the ongoing response, but how we apply these interventions in the future.

Action Against Hunger, in a coordinated effort with UNICEF and the US Centers for Disease Control, therefore conducted the Innovations and COVID-19 Adaptations in the Management of Child Wasting Project, a global study to capture adaptations and associated learning over the course of the pandemic. As part of this initiative, we invited organizations around the world to come together and share experiences and resources. We aimed to:

  1. Identify and map programmatic adaptations implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  2. Extract learning on the operational implications of the approaches; and,
  3. Facilitate uptake of this evidence to inform short- and long-term nutrition programming.

Over the course of the project (July 2020 to August 2021), we engaged with almost 20 organizations working in 75 countries around the world to document adaptations and share challenges and best practices through surveys and interviews.

Project outputs include:

 

Action Against Hunger is leading a global movement to end hunger in our lifetimes. It innovates solutions, advocates for change, and reaches 25 million people every year with proven hunger prevention and treatment programs. As a nonprofit that works across 50 countries, its 8,300 dedicated staff members partner with communities to address the root causes of hunger, including climate change, conflict, inequity, and emergencies. It strives to create a world free from hunger, for everyone, for good.