Dr. Azucena M. Dayanghirang, executive director of the Philippines National Nutrition Council and SUN focal point.

We are only a few months away from the five-year anniversary of Nutrition International’s technical assistance to the Philippines, which has been instrumental in helping us develop and implement the Philippines Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN) 2017-2022. This work, done via Nutrition International’s Nutrition Technical Assistance Mechanism (NTEAM) unit through the Technical Assistance for Nutrition (TAN) project, was funded with UK Aid from the UK Government. 

Nutrition International’s approach to capacity development has contributed to strengthening the government’s commitment and leadership for nutrition at all levels over the last five years. The technical assistance provided remained flexible and responsive throughout, providing both long-term, broad technical assistance for planning, coordination and technical nutrition guidance, as well as shorter-term responses to specific needs as they were identified.  

As the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) focal point and on behalf of the National Nutrition Council[1] (NNC) of the Department of Health of the Republic of the Philippines, I am pleased to share some of the ways by which Nutrition International’s technical assistance, through NTEAM, helped strengthen our institutional capacity and capabilities to respond to the needs of our member agencies and local counterparts to mark this occasion.

Allow me to share some examples: 

National Team of Planning Facilitators for nutrition 

Having supported the National Nutrition Council (NNC) in drafting the PPAN 2017-2022 and their 17 equivalents Regional Plans of Action for Nutrition, Nutrition International helped us to organize and train a National Team of Planning Facilitators, composed of representatives of NNC member agencies and development partners, to carry out planning and budgeting workshops on nutrition at the sub-national and local levels. Thanks to this support, from 2018 to 2020 we were able to conduct local nutrition action planning workshops in 32 PPAN-HDPRC[2] provinces and other non PPAN-HDPRC provinces and their constituent local government units (LGUs).

This helped us ensure alignment at the subnational level with national PPAN programs, and the integration of nutrition in local development plans, investment programs and annual budgets.  We also used tools, materials and costing templates developed with NTEAM support during those workshops, which ultimately led to all prioritized PPAN provinces developing Local Nutrition Action Plans for 2020-2022. This work was featured prominently in a recent NEDA-UNDP formative evaluation, and I was proud to highlight NNC’s accomplishments, made possible with Nutrition International’s support.

Local Government Units (LGUs) mobilization strategy 

The LGUs are pivotal to the success of our PPAN’s objectives. A 2019 case study observed that the “disproportionate power in the absence of capacity” has been severely limiting in the ability of LGUs to effectively plan and budget for nutrition.[3] As a policy and coordinating body, we pursued a more direct and results-oriented strategy to engage the LGUs. Nutrition International helped us design the PPAN’s comprehensive LGU mobilization strategy which aims to influence local chief executives and their teams to prioritize nutrition in, and improve the management of, their local plans and budgets. This strategy has been instrumental in how we effectively coordinate our actions with LGUs and has provided us with the tools and processes we need.

Compendium of Actions and Compendium of Local Ordinances and Issuances on Nutrition  

Many LGUs have found innovative and context-specific ways to address nutrition needs in their provinces, municipalities and cities. In 2018, we published the first Compendium of Actions on Nutrition (CAN) which features success stories and challenges of a cross-section of LGUs in the Philippines. The CAN has been a principal tool for advocating for good practices on leadership and governance for nutrition, including for improved planning, programming, financing and mobilization of sectors and communities at the local government level.  Focusing on the subnational level, it highlights the importance of local policies in support of scaling up nutrition.  

In 2020, the NNC launched the Compendium of Local Ordinances on Nutrition comprising of over 200 local ordinances and issuances as another knowledge sharing platform for local governments to share their best practices and experiences with others to improve implementation for nutrition actions. Both compendia, developed with technical assistance from Nutrition International and UNICEF, have incentivized the local chief executives to prioritize nutrition and push their LGUs on further action in order to be featured in future editions.  

For example, in 2019, Mayor Nacional Mercado of Maasin city received a copy of the CAN at a mayors’ forum in Manila and upon his return instructed members of the local nutrition committee to read the compendium and identify good practices they could replicate. He set a challenge for himself and for the members of the local nutrition committee to ensure the next volume of the CAN would include an example from Maasin city. Thus, the CAN was able to achieve its purpose of advocating, and challenging, local government to improve nutrition program management. 

Peer learning system 

In the CAN, we identified that high-performing LGUs learn from other LGUs in their ascent towards scaling up nutrition and, hence, more organized opportunities were needed to facilitate learning and experience sharing among LGUs. NNC has begun to systematize existing peer learning strategies including mobilizing nutrition champions and establishing the LGU shepherding program and nutrition learning hubs which were being practiced de facto in some regions. 

With continued Nutrition International and UNICEF support, the three peer learning strategies are to be launched in 2021 and expanded in years to come. Despite some limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are finding ways for LGUs to learn from each other through these three learning strategies, such as through technical manuals, online orientations and training sessions.  

Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) annual joint assessment 

As a SUN country, the Philippines conducts annual assessments to determine the level of progress achieved towards the SUN objectives.[4] Nutrition International provided technical and facilitation support to the NNC in the annual assessment exercises of 2018, 2019 and 2020. The level of its technical and facilitation support over these years has progressively diminished with the NNC secretariat taking full leadership of the SUN joint assessment beginning 2019 and continuing in 2020.

We are grateful for the continued support we have received from Nutrition International via NTEAM’s TAN project. In 2021, this support has included: 

  • A review of nutrition scorecards to strengthen the NNC’s influence with LGUs.  
  • Technical assistance to determine the most appropriate model of nutrition leadership and governance to strengthen local chief executives’ capacity in nutrition. 
  • The inclusion of a nutrition indicator to evaluate in the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG), through advocacy with the Department of Interior and Local Government. 

Nutrition International’s approach is one that enables government to be at the forefront, while supporting with technical, management and strategic expertise. They have supported the Government of the Philippines’ objectives, responding to our specific needs as they are identified and through long-term support. We look forward to continued collaboration with Nutrition International to achieve our PPAN 2017-2022 objectives. 

 

[1] The National Nutrition Council (NNC) is the highest policy-making and coordinating body on nutrition in the Philippines, responsible not only for formulating and coordinating national food and nutrition policies, but also to plan, monitor and evaluate the national nutrition program, strengthen competencies and capabilities of stakeholders and coordinate programs to achieve relevant MDGs. It is an attached agency to the Department of Health and the Secretary of Health chairs the NNC Governing Board.

[2] HDRPC refers to the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet. In July 2019, NNC aligned the PPAN priority provinces with HDPRC provinces, to identify a total of 32 priority provinces.

[3] Emergency Nutrition Network (ENN) 2019: https://www.nutritionintl.org//www.ennonline.net/attachments/3340/MSP-Philippines-Finalised-for-Dissemination-Version.pdf

[4] The 2020 Sun Movement Joint Assessment, At a Glance: What it is and what it does. https://www.nutritionintl.org//scalingupnutrition.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/SUN-JA-At-a-glance-ENG-2020_lowres.pdf