The author is chairman of the African Development Bank
The global effort to control the epidemic has focused on ensuring that safe and effective vaccines are available to all, including people in poor countries. Although vaccines are a game changer, they are not a quick fix.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of disparities in vaccine distribution across Africa. Vaccines will not be widely available until 2023 or 2024. So inevitably the reservoirs of the virus will persist and threaten us all with the emergence of vaccine-resistant virulence. Moreover, in the race for vaccination, governments are failing to recognize the important role that nutrition plays in combating this harmful disease.
Good nutrition does not prevent Kovid-19 infection. But malnutrition makes its effects worse. Malnutrition impairs the immune system. Obesity and obesity in the diet, which are cheap and unhealthy, are associated with diabetes and cardiovascular disease – both high risk factors for acute illness and death from the coronary virus. Finally, good nutrition is important to ensure the full effectiveness of the vaccine and may be associated with the progression of long covid.
Despite significant efforts, malnourished people in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Africa and Asia, are unable to access adequate food at 250m and 381m, respectively. Kovid-19 threatens to create another 132 malnourished people due to job loss, income sabotage and poor health. The world is mobilized around the vaccine; It should be mobilized to improve nutrition. Otherwise, Kovid will expand global inequalities.
Improved food systems are key and can play an important role in mitigating the threat of future epidemics. Wherever wildlife enters the human diet, or when wildlife hosts and human habitats overlap, the disease can spread from animals to the human population – HIV / AIDS, Ebola, influenza and almost certainly Kovid-19. Better managed food systems reduce these risks.
Addressing the dual objectives of faster and more just vaccination and worsening malnutrition levels is a major challenge for countries already plagued by the epidemic. The development of grassroots financing mechanisms greatly contributed to vaccination access. For example, Gavi Kovacs’ advance market commitment supports vaccination in 92 low- and middle-income countries. The African Union has set up an African Vaccine Task Force to vaccinate about 60 percent of the continent’s population, and the herds will be immunized, according to the cow count.
The African Development Bank Group’s agricultural (public and private) investment in food systems is expected to quadruple by an average of $ 612 million to $ 2.4 billion annually by 2024. In March 2020, the Bank raised a whopping $ 3 billion on a three-year bond to mitigate the potential economic and social impact of the Kovid-19 epidemic on African economies. The following month, the bank’s board of directors approved a $ 10 billion Kovid-19 response facility.
No country or region alone can win the war. The fight against a global threat requires a global response. As part of this fight, we need dedicated financial support to mobilize global and local resources so that everyone can have a sustainable, affordable and healthy diet. When meeting world leaders at this year’s UN Food Systems Conference, both the Food Transformation Agenda and Kovid-19 Management must acknowledge nutrition and health. Vaccines can protect, but it is nutrition that matters.