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Through the Technical Assistance for Nutrition (TAN) project, Nutrition International’s Nutrition Technical Assistance Mechanism (NTEAM) is playing an important role in strengthening the capacity of the Government of Bangladesh to operationalize its second National Plan of Action on Nutrition (NPAN2) 2016-2025, helping the government pursue the ambitious nutrition targets to which it committed.

The NPAN2 identifies nutrition as a multisectoral goal, meaning it can only be achieved with participation from many government departments, United Nations and donor agencies, civil society organizations, academia and businesses. To strengthen collaboration, coordination and leadership, the Bangladesh National Nutrition Council (BNNC), chaired by the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh, was designated as the apex body for steering nutrition actions including the NPAN2. To overcome the many challenges that come with such a far-reaching mandate, five core areas of nutrition platforms were established: Nutrition-Specific, Nutrition-Sensitive, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E), Advocacy and Communication, and Capacity building.

With three years of NTEAM technical assistance, the BNNC is increasingly establishing itself as the leader of effective nutrition action in Bangladesh. This was most recently evidenced by its work to ensure nutrition featured prominently in the government’s COVID-19 response

Nutrition International was tasked with strengthening the institution’s capacity to lead the design, implementation, and monitoring of nutrition programs. Since 2017, NTEAM’s TAN project has supported both specific short-term needs, such as focused assessments and thematic plans, and longer-term broader needs, such as improving the systems and processes of the BNNC while advising its leaders and staff.

Initial support focused on the development of the BNNC’s strategic framework and organogram, and operational and costed plans for the BNNC Secretariat. Nutrition International also supported the launch and continuity of routine meetings between the five core areas of nutrition platforms, made up of stakeholders from different sectors. The consultative approach of NTEAM’s TAN project was instrumental in bringing together all stakeholders and building a common vision for supporting NPAN2 and the BNNC.

Over the course of a year, NTEAM, through the TAN project, also supported the development of a monitoring, evaluation and reporting system, prioritizing monitoring indicators, and building an effective and reliable data management, analysis and dissemination system. The system utilizes data generated by at least seven government agencies, which is collected and processed in collaboration with three government and UN agencies. Further technical assistance helped develop an advocacy plan for nutrition aligned with the national social behaviour change and communications strategy that could be implemented through the multi-stakeholder platform.

Finally, a human resources assessment for nutrition identified gaps in capacity and skill sets within the BNNC and other government agencies involved in achieving the NPAN2, providing a blueprint now being used to fill vacancies and build human resources structures for nutrition within the government.

Throughout these engagements, NTEAM’s technical assistance providers have worked collaboratively with staff at the BNNC, government agencies and key nutrition partners, helping to build consensus, ownership and capacity of the BNNC, and ultimately reinforcing the sustainability of the institution. NTEAM’s TAN project also indirectly helped mobilize resources for NPAN2 by ensuring all 22 ministries developed costed nutrition plans for the first time in Bangladesh’s history.

Technical assistance currently underway now seeks to translate the systems strengthening and collaboration at the national level to the sub-national level, to enable local actors from multiple sectors to jointly implement the NPAN2 in their respective jurisdictions. NTEAM’s collaborative approach through the TAN project over the last three years is credited with having built momentum within the nutrition community to support the multisectoral, multi-stakeholder activities at scale.

NTEAM’s expertise has been valued to such an extent that Dr. Iqbal Kabir, the technical assistance provider, was invited to lead several technical committees and working groups to ensure addressing nutrition needs featured prominently in the government’s COVID-19 response strategies. As part of the COVID-19 & Nutrition Working Group for Bangladesh, recommendations were submitted to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Disaster & Relief regarding the composition of food baskets and public nutrition messaging. As a key member of the Expert Committee on Food Security and Nutrition, Dr. Kabir also supported the projection of the potential malnutrition burden during and post COVID-19, and identified nutrition policy recommendations to be integrated in the government’s COVID-19 response plan.

Capacity strengthening efforts of NTEAM’s technical assistance over the last three years have provided the foundation for nutrition leadership needed during these unprecedented times.

Additional Resources:

“Determining the Impact of COVID-19 on nutrition”: BNNC study

“Combating Malnutrition in Bangladesh in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic”: BNNC policy brief

“Combatting the coming malnutrition crisis”: The Daily Star op-ed by Nutrition International Bangladesh Country Director Saiqa Siraj