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A longitudinal investigation of dietary diversity during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mandinka households in Kanifing, Brikama, and the West Kiang region in The Gambia.

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Sidebottom, Richard 
Wassie, Solomon Bizuayehu 
Cerami, Carla 
Jallow, Momodou W 
Fennell, Shailaja 


The Covid pandemic has exposed fissures of inequality through heightened food insecurity and nutritional deficiency for vulnerable social cohorts with limited coping mechanisms. Given the multi-dimensional pathways through which its effects have been felt, several researchers have highlighted the need to analyse the pandemic in specific contexts. Using random and fixed effect regression models, this study analyzed longitudinal survey data collected from 103 Mandinka households in rural and urban Gambia. The study employed convenience and snowball sampling and involved the monthly collection of detailed income, food consumption, expenditure, sourcing, migration, health, and coping mechanism data through mobile phone interviews which yielded 676 observations. Food insecurity was manifest in terms of quality, not quantity, and spread unevenly across food types and households. Dietary outcomes and sourcing strategies were associated with location, improved sanitation, household size, changes in monthly income, Covid policy stringency, and Covid cases but these associations varied by food group. Staples were the most frequently consumed food group, and dark green vegetables were the least. Rural communities were more likely to eat more healthy millets but much less likely to consume dairy products or roots and tubers. Access to own production was also important for Vitamin A-rich foods but higher incomes and markets were key for protein and heme-iron-rich foods. Tighter Covid policy stringency was negatively associated with dietary diversity and, along with fear of market hoarding, was positively associated with reliance on a range of consumption and production coping mechanisms. Resilience was higher in larger households and those with improved water and sanitation. The number of Covid cases was associated with higher consumption of protein-rich foods and greater reliance on own produced iron-rich foods. Very few households received Government aid and those that did already had access to other income sources. Our findings suggest that the nature of food insecurity may have evolved over time during the pandemic. They also reiterate not only the importance of access to markets and employment but also that the capacity to absorb affordability shocks and maintain food choices through switching between sources for specific nutritious food groups varied by household and location.


Peer reviewed: True

Acknowledgements: The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the data collection and data management teams at MRC Gambia/London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, The Gambia.


COVID-19, coping mechanisms, dietary diversity, food security, nutrition

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Front Nutr

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Frontiers Media SA