PRESS RELEASE

IMPROVED ACCESS TO WASH, SOAP, AND NUTRITION AMONG THE MOST VULNERABLE IN ZAMBIA KEY TO FIGHT COVID-19 PANDEMIC.

LUSAKA (Thursday, 21st January 2021) – The National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC) in partnership with USAID Scaling Up Nutrition Learning and Evaluation (SUN-LE) call for improved access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), soap and nutrition among the most vulnerable in Zambia to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a recent baseline survey, SUN LE notes that vulnerable communities without access to WASH, soap, and proper nutrition are associated with increased risks of contracting COVID-19.

Billions of people around the world continue to suffer from lack of access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). In Zambia, only 39% of the population has access to safe, clean water, and even fewer have adequate sanitation and hygiene. In addition, high poverty levels mean that most vulnerable communities cannot afford soap, let alone a balanced diet for a healthy body.

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, NFNC and SUN LE recommend policymakers, civil society organisations, and the private sector to take the following urgent actions.

• Facilitate provision of safe and clean water, and soap.
• Support interventions to improve nutrition of vulnerable populations.
• Promote handwashing with soap and proper waste disposal.
• Promote home-based water treatment and safe storage.
• Raise awareness on constructing recommended pit latrines that adhere to hygiene standards.

The SUN LE Learning and Evaluation Project, Chief of party, Mathews Onyango states that the COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented in its scale and spread in Zambia, and fast action on promoting hygiene and good nutrition now can drastically reduce its impact, especially in vulnerable communities. Such action is especially relevant with the current second wave of COVID -19 pandemic.

“We cannot wait any longer. Concerted efforts are needed to expand hygiene and nutrition throughout the country, particularly handwashing with soap and water and promoting diverse diets to reduce the long-term impact of COVID-19. Sustaining such hygiene practices will also contribute to reducing diarrhoea-related diseases that have

been linked with high levels of stunting among children under 5 years of age,” Mr. Onyango remarks.

And NFNC Acting Executive Director, Musonda Mofu has revealed that research shows that a well-nourished body has a better defence mechanism against diseases.

“I must say that nutrition should also be a front-line defense against COVID-19, as hand washing with water and soap alone is not enough. We need to take a holistic approach to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Emerging data reveals the importance of nutrition as a mitigation strategy to support immune function amid the #COVID19 pandemic by identifying food groups and key nutrients of importance that may affect the outcomes of respiratory infections. Vulnerable communities need support to access nutrition,” Mr. Mofu emphasizes.

Both NFNC and SUN LE implore all sectors to work together and prioritize the provision of WASH, soap, and nutrition in vulnerable communities in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Zambia.

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About National Food and Nutrition Commission
The National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC) is a statutory body created under CAP 308 of the laws of Zambia. Our Vision is to be a reliable leading institution for optimal nutrition of the nation.

Mission
To coordinate Food and Nutrition Action for optimal food and nutrition of the nation.

For more information, contact Communication and Advocacy Specialist, Barbara Hamoonga Ndhlovu; jhamoonga28@gmail.com. Contact: +260 977425015

About USAID Scaling Up Nutrition Learning and Evaluation (SUN LE)
The Scaling Up Nutrition Learning and Evaluation (SUN LE) project is a 4-year USAID-funded project implemented by Khulisa Management Services, Inc. (Khulisa) in partnership with the Government of the Republic of Zambia, and in collaboration with Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute, ICF International, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.