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Nutrition International’s Nutrition Technical Assistance Mechanism (NTEAM) recently  undertook its third progress assessment of the assignments within its Technical Assistance for Nutrition (TAN) project. A team of external evaluators reviewed the contributions of nine technical assistance (TA) assignments in five countries against eight outcomes: scale, coordination, quality, effectiveness, gender equality, inclusivity, capacity and capability. The report provides recommendations for Nutrition International to build on successes and address the challenges observed. Nutrition International’s responses to these recommendations are listed below. It’s important to note that the progress assessments only review a portion of TA implemented over a specific period of the project, and that Nutrition International’s TA responds to country driven requests for support.

  1. Recommendation: Increase investment in TA that supports subnational level operationalization of multisectoral nutrition strategies and plans. Wherever relevant, future TA should be designed with field level implementation as the goal, seeking to fill capacity gaps at this level in technical oversight and leadership.

Response: Nutrition International agrees with this recommendation and has experienced strong results at the subnational level; for example, in the Philippines,  Ethiopia and Kenya. Nutrition International underscores the importance of allocating adequate time for capacity building of different stakeholders and institutions who will advance the objectives envisaged in the TA, will continue to ensure clear parameters are in place to influence improvement in capability both within the leadership of Nutritional International and at country levels, and actively mobilize resources for TA that support subnational TA implementation.

  1. Recommendation: Continue to identify contexts where embedding a nutrition technical professional within the government structure for an extended period can be transformational. TA providers with a mix of technical and political skills can play a key role in building government stakeholder awareness and multisectoral coordination, keeping nutrition high on the agenda for both political and managerial discussions. Ensuring sustainability and government ownership after capability is strengthened is also important.

Response: Nutrition International agrees with this recommendation and has been applying this approach for TA in select countries, such as Ethiopia, the Philippines and Bangladesh. To ensure sustainability and government ownership, Nutrition International acknowledges that clear parameters of growth in client capacity and capability should be evident over time. We will support this by developing TA terms of reference that define TA provider roles that evolves over time. The political commitment of the clients is a major contributor to the success of long term TA and the sustainability of client capacity and capability development.

  1. Recommendation: Leverage TA to advocate for governments to fulfill their commitments for nutrition-related human resources. Insufficiently trained human resources for nutrition was a common barrier to achieving increased capacity across all countries. While TA can help fill vacant technical posts in the short-term, future TA should hold governments accountable for filling nutrition-focused staff positions and invest more resources in training the staff hired to fill the observed capability gaps.

Response: Nutrition International agrees with this recommendation and had applied it in some instances, such as in Bangladesh, where our TA supported a nutrition focused human resource assessment for its Bangladesh National Nutrition Council (BNNC) and 21 other ministries. This TA also contributed to the appointment of a gender focal point for BNNC. Nutrition International will continue to leverage future TA where appropriate to advocate for governments to fulfil our commitments for nutrition-related human resources.

  1. Recommendation: Support government leaders to prioritize the most effective actions when resources are not sufficient to fund the whole plan. TA that is designed to support sectoral managers to translate complex action plans into shorter work plans that are feasible to fund, implement and monitor in annual program cycles is expected to demonstrate success, deliver ‘more nutrition for the money’, and build greater political buy-in and commitment to sustain funding for nutrition.

Response: Nutrition International agrees with this recommendation and has been implementing it where possible, in collaboration with country leadership and stakeholders. For example, in Kenya TA supported the development of County Nutrition Investment Cases and County Nutrition Action Plans for 12 counties based on the Kenya Nutrition Action Plan, with a goal of mobilizing resources to implement high impact nutrition interventions through a matching funds approach. In Ethiopia, resources have been mobilized with Nutrition International’s support, including from the African Development Bank and other development partners, with an approximate value of USD 48.18 million to support nutrition intervention activities for the Seqota Declaration.

  1. Recommendation: Build on Nutrition International’s success in support for costing of nutrition action plans and increase its focus on supporting government stakeholders to track actual spending on nutrition. Now that more governments have costed nutrition action plans in place, there is a need to ensure the budgets committed are disbursed and spending is tracked.

Response: Nutrition International agrees with this recommendation and has been implementing it in appropriate contexts. For example, in Mozambique Nutrition International’s most recent TA supported the government to develop a financing and budgeting framework, including mobilization of resources, tracking of allocation, and expenditures in nutrition. In Bangladesh TA supported the development of national and subnational nutrition dashboards that track – in real time – expenditures on nutrition across government. Our Kenya country office team continues to support the counties to set up financial disbursement, tracking and accountability systems.

  1. Recommendation: Continue to build the knowledge base on what works to integrate gender equality in nutrition program efforts. Working with TA providers to develop results pathways for gender equality actions and results will help to understand enablers and barriers to achieving this outcome. Nutrition International could also support the development of field-friendly tools that assist TA providers in their efforts to increase stakeholder awareness on the links between gender and nutrition, conduct gender analysis of data, identify context-specific gender-sensitive performance indicators, and engage more women in decision making processes.

Response: Nutrition International agrees with this recommendation and is working on improving this area of our TA provision. We have also developed a number of gender equality and nutrition resources for TA providers, including a guidance document for Integrating Gender Equality into Technical Assistance. In the last year, we invested in understanding and sharing the results and learnings that its TA has on gender equality not only through this year’s progress assessment, but also last year’s progress assessment, and by undertaking one gender test case TA assignment in Bangladesh and a gender assessment of 34 TA assignments in Africa, Asia and to the SUN Movement Secretariat. As a result of these assessments, we will endeavor to ensure the inclusion of at least one specific gender equality objective in future TA and work with TA providers to develop gender equality results pathways outlining enabling factors and barriers to achieving gender equality outcomes.

For more information about this year’s external Progress Assessment please read: External Progress Assessment of Technical Assistance Delivered under Nutrition International’s TAN Project