The weapon that will end the war against Covid-19,
which has claimed 1.9 million lives as of this writing, has arrived. The rollout of vaccines in the US and European countries has given us hope that life would return to normal once the world gain herd immunity. While there are challenges in delivering the vaccine to billions of people all over the world, citizens can say that the end of the dreaded pandemic is now in sight.
The disease may be stopped on its tracks by the vaccine, but its lingering effects would continue to be felt by many others who had been affected. Even after the pandemic is over, millions of families affected by Covid-19 would be haunted by the nightmare caused by an unseen enemy. Those who contracted the disease would also have to grapple with the post-Covid-19 syndrome even after they have recovered from the disease.
Apart from those who lost their loved ones and those who contracted the disease, the impact of Covid-19 would continue to be felt by children and expectant mothers who experienced food insecurity during the pandemic. This is a problem that is not unique to poor and middle-income countries because even rich nations saw their poverty incidence rise due to the quarantine restrictions. However, for a country like the Philippines, which considers its young population as one of its economic advantages, the lack of access to food would have dire consequences not only for families but also for the country’s health-care system.
According to a survey conducted by the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute, 7 in 10 (74.7 percent) households with children, and 8 in 10 (80.8 percent) households with pregnant members experienced the highest food insecurity during the Covid-19 pandemic (See, “Households with children, pregnant women hurt by food insecurity in pandemic,” in the BusinessMirror, December 30, 2020). The Rapid Nutrition Assessment Survey of the DOST-FNRI also indicated that 6 out of 10 (62.1 percent) households experienced moderate or severe food insecurity.
Food insecurity experienced by children could lead to undernutrition and weaken their immune system, making them susceptible to diseases. According to DOST, undernutrition and frequent illness among children could result in tremendous medical cost, lost opportunities, and economic drain. The public health-care system, which has been stretched to its limits during the pandemic, would also have to shoulder the medical burden caused by undernutrition and stunting.
We join the DOST-FNRI in urging policy-makers to consider the results of the survey in crafting policies that would ensure that vulnerable sectors have access to food. Policy-makers must listen to experts who said that Covid-19 is not the last health crisis that the world will see, particularly if climate change and animal welfare are not addressed. They must use the lessons of this health crisis to craft safety nets that would prevent a repeat of what Filipino children and mothers experienced during the pandemic.