9 examples of effective technical assistance for nutrition
Technical assistance (TA) is proving to be a force for change, supporting countries around the world to improve their performance on nutrition. But how does TA achieve results and improve nutrition programming? Here, we share nine examples of our work, and reflect on the importance of TA within the global nutrition landscape.
Posted on December 13, 2021
From setting up community lab incubators in Ethiopia to bolstering food safety regulations in several of Pakistan’s provinces, technical assistance (TA) plays an instrumental role in strengthening systems and mobilizing resources to support country-led implementation of national nutrition plans.
From 2015 to 2021, Nutrition International’s Technical Assistance to Nutrition (TAN) project, funded with UK aid from the UK government, and as part of our Nutrition Technical Assistance Mechanism (NTEAM), supported 17 countries – all members of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement – through 68 TA assignments. We conducted these assignments using a collaborative and integrated approach that addressed the specific challenges and opportunities of each project, client and context.
Nutrition International’s technical assistance is demand driven. We respond to the country-led asks of national and subnational governments with technical experts who have the relevant experience, know-how and ability to navigate the political economy of each environment. Our technical experts work in partnership with all levels of government, as well as support frontline health workers to strengthen nutrition policy, programming and systems to deliver real-world impact for everyday citizens. Done well, TA creates trust, unlocks funds, catalyzes action and fosters multistakeholder accountability.
Below, we share a sampling of nine examples that showcase how we’ve used TA to support national nutrition agendas around the world.
Rigorous planning is key to any project. Strengthening the documented roadmap of where a country wants to take nutrition is essential to bring a plan to fruition.
In Tanzania, Nutrition International supported the Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre with costing, reviewing and finalizing the Tanzanian National Scale-up Plan for Micronutrients (2016/17 – 2020/21), one of the plans forming the National Multisectoral Nutrition Action Plan (2016/17 – 2020/21), in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children. The TA team co-facilitated stakeholder workshops which included capacity building in monitoring and evaluation, as well as workshops with thematic task forces to refine and adopt the plan. Government actors and partners came together in a collaborative approach that supported buy-in and engagement. Furthermore, gender equity considerations were integrated throughout the anaemia and micronutrient guidelines developed with the support of a subsequent TA assignment, creating evidence-based guidelines based on national and global technical advice.
Legislation is a powerful means of enforcing policy and sustains the impact of TA after it ends. But there are many moving pieces to achieving it: from framing to drafting, adoption to enforcement.
This was evident in the support provided to the development of provincial food safety standards in Pakistan. A progress assessment on one TA in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa found that the TA consulted and engaged with numerous government departments and partners, which led to a notable increase in awareness on the importance of food safety standards and regulations by food processors and marketers, as well as by the public. This led to increased interest and compliance. Inspired by this experience, two similar TA assignments were requested and launched, to support the provincial food departments in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Balochistan to develop rules of business. In November 2021, a major milestone was achieved: with continued advocacy from Nutrition International, in conjunction with government partners, the province of Sindh passed mandatory food fortification legislation, with other provinces progressing on passing their own bills into law.
Strengthening internal systems to truly develop capacity is essential to achieve an end goal, whether it be financing a nutrition action plan or helping to develop rules of business.
In the Philippines, TA to the National Nutrition Council supported the development and operationalization of the Philippines Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN). This involved strengthening the capacity of key policy planners to prioritize nutrition interventions by providing surveillance information and a landscape analysis. An impact assessment conducted on this TA in February 2019 showed that the PPAN is being implemented and is referred to by partners when making nutrition plans. Building on this work, the national plan was translated into subnational action plans, strengthening the capacity of the regional administrations of 17 prioritized regions and key officials of 32 provincial Local Government Units to develop their subnational action plans. This is one aspect of the impact of Nutrition International’s TA in the country.
Effective coordination creates opportunities and reduces the inefficiencies that result from working in silos.
In Kenya, the County Nutrition Action Plans are a prime example of subnational coordination to achieve great results. Here, TA supported counties to develop nutrition plans through multi-sectoral collaboration with various government units and businesses, and between the national and subnational governments. This enabled counties to lead the way, promoting local ownership and sustainability, while being strengthened through a support network invested in the same outcomes and goals.
Nutrition International has played a key role in helping countries to determine the best costing approach for their context, fostering accountability and partnership.
In Ethiopia, TA supported the delivery of the country’s nutrition action plan to end childhood malnutrition from 2015 to 2030, “The Seqota Declaration”, as well as building capacity for tracking nutrition actions at regional and national levels. As part of this, TA to the Federal Program Delivery Unit and to regional woreda officials strengthened their capacity on nutrition finance analysis, resource tracking, accountability and partnership management, ultimately advancing Ethiopia’s ability to track nutrition actions at all levels.
Developing strategies to fuel funding is key to making plans actionable.
In Malawi, TA helped to identify and track nutrition spending across relevant line ministries, aligned to the National Multisectoral Nutrition Strategic Plan, 2018-22. These ministries include health, education, science and technology, agriculture, irrigation and water development, industry and trade, local government and rural development, and finance, economic planning and development. The TA facilitated operationalization of a nutrition financial tracking and accountability framework, as well as a domestic resource mobilization strategy for nutrition. This TA is expected to significantly contribute to the capacity of national and subnational governments to track financial resources towards nutrition, and to support advocacy with government and other partners to mobilize dedicated funds for nutrition actions from domestic resources.
Good data drives quality decision-making. Strengthening the opportunities to capture and analyze data is essential to create programs that are responsive to ground realities.
In Senegal, Nutrition International provided TA to assess data from the 2018 national micronutrient survey. This included conducting lab tests and robust data analysis. The findings will provide analysis of the socioeconomic factors of micronutrient deficiencies to inform actionable policy and programming recommendations. This will help with the design of appropriate nutrition programs that can respond in targeted ways to micronutrient deficiencies, particularly amongst women and children.
Nutrition International always strives to turn learnings into action. Having a robust MEAL framework is integral to understanding a project’s results and harnessing that knowledge to shape future projects.
TA in Kenya supported the country’s Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) focal point to conduct an in-depth review of the country’s 2012-2017 National Nutrition Action Plan (NNAP). Further TA from Nutrition International supported the Nutrition and Dietetics Unit to incorporate the NNAP’s review recommendations into the costing, financial tracking, monitoring and evaluation, and enabling environment components of the Kenya Nutrition Action Plan for 2018-2022 (KNAP II), which is the current national framework. A progress assessment conducted in 2020 revealed that these components significantly contributed to the improved quality of the KNAP II over the previous NNAP. In particular, the costing framework added significant value and has been used by counties to develop their costed action plans. The assessment albeit noted that improvements could be made to the monitoring and evaluation framework to incorporate gender and to include a more robust review of the enabling environment in future.
It is not enough to simply collect data; we need to analyze and evaluate findings to find and fill gaps that ultimately inform programming. This is a critical area within the nutrition landscape.
Over the last 5 years, Nutrition International has worked closely with, and provided TA to, the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement to advance understanding of each country’s nutrition information system and how to leverage data to better track and achieve results. This has included exploring nutrition data gaps faced by countries and the challenges in addressing them. The mapping of information systems for nutrition in all SUN countries and the development of four country case studies were early contributions by Nutrition International to nutrition data and evidence generation for informed decision-making by the SUN Movement Secretariat.
Nutrition International will continue to provide technical assistance after the close of the TAN project. We are grateful for what was achieved through the TAN project and look forward to building on the partnerships and learnings from the project to work towards a world where everyone has access to the nutrition they need.