Developing strategies to end hunger
 

Experts Discuss Nutrition Capacity at Bread for the World

The Institute was very pleased to co-host an event with the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) on the subject of nutrition capacity, from the perspectives of the World Bank, Save the Children US, and USAID.  MFAN co-chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram were in attendance, and Ingram served as moderator to a panel discussion.  The event was well-attended by approximately 50 members of the nutrition community who work in the fields of advocacy, policy analysis and program implementation.

We wanted to assess nutrition resources available to U.S. Government agencies, to implementing partners, and to country governments and civil society.  The basis for the discussion was the Institute’s briefing paper, “Scaling Up Global Nutrition: Bolstering U.S. Government Capacity”. Questions we raised in the paper include:  Is there sufficient technical capacity in nutrition to “scale up” programs? How well-equipped is the U.S. government to support country-led efforts and help sustain their momentum and progress?  How can we further build our capacity?
 
An approach to nutrition that crosses government departments, bureaus, and offices will help strengthen U.S. programs and use our nutrition dollars as effectively as possible. Strengthened leadership and capacity helps ensure better coordination and accountability for results. Harmonized program strategy, budgets, guidance on implementation, and implementation on the ground will maximize the impact of our work on the critical problem of global malnutrition.

The panelists included Robert Clay, USAID Deputy Administrator, Global Health Bureau, Karin Lapping, Senior Director-Nutrition at Save the Children US, and Leslie Elder, Senior Nutrition Specialist at the World Bank, who spoke of the importance of country level capacity, which in some of the SUN countries, is not well-developed. Efforts at the World Bank include supporting the International Health Partnership and Related Initiatives (IHP+), which is looking at ways the donor community can best support the SUN movement.

Clay said that USAID has been looking at ways to improve nutrition policies and programs, including developing consistent operational guidelines in Feed the Future countries, utilizing existing global learning platforms such as GAIN, SPRING and FANTA, and by hosting an upcoming global Nutrition Exchange forum with USAID missions that will focus on a multi-sector approach to improving nutrition.  Lapping showed an example of Save’s work in Vietnam on nutrition, working with individual provinces to operationalize programs.  It is hopeful that the global momentum being built on nutrition can be sustained; for its part Save is hosting yearly workshops to build local capacity.

An exchange of ideas and experiences with participants followed that lasted for more than an hour.  It was noted that some SUN countries are progressing at a rapid rate with significant improvement in childhood stunting, and others are struggling to put together national nutrition plans, including naming a high-level focal point for nutrition, a commitment they have made under the SUN Framework.  The United States also does not have a single, high-level point of contact for nutrition issues, something that the Institute recommended in our briefing paper referenced above.  A number of successful multi-sector approaches to nutrition were shared by organizations who work overseas at the local level.  With agricultural-related development programs predominantly focused on yield improvement, it is difficult to establish linkages to improvements in nutrition status. 

Efforts are being taken to develop better nutrition indicators and to collect better data on improved nutrition outcomes. Underlying all this is the need to work with civil society organizations and small holder farmers to understand what nutrition programs work best in that local context. Armed with that knowledge, better programs to improve nutrition and reduce childhood stunting can be developed that are sustained by local groups after donor funding runs out.

Bangladesh Nepal Delhi 2012 165
Local nutrition capacity is built in Nepal through village women's groups.  Photo: Michele Learner

We’re very pleased that our paper served as a launching point for this extensive conversation about what is working and what must be improved in nutrition policies and programs.  It came across clearly that the participants’ most successful nutrition-related programs have invested at the local level, developing the capacity of partners. A new development model is emerging, one that is moving from developing donor-client relationships to one encouraging partnerships, including public-private partnerships, at the local level.

Scott Blog Pic  Scott Bleggi is senior international policy analyst in Bread for the World Institute.

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