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Tanzania, 27 August 2014: Forum Proves Catalyst for Scaling up Action on Nutrition

© UNICEF Tanzania/2014/Holt
Growth monitoring session at the Mwembeladu Maternity Home in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

UNICEF leverages first-ever joint nutrition sector review in Tanzania to bring nutrition partners together in common ambition

27 August 2014, Dar es Salaam – On 19-21 August, Tanzania’s Prime Minister Office hosted the first joint nutrition sector review in Tanzania with the support of IrishAid, USAID, WHO, WFP, UNREACH and UNICEF. For the first time, key representatives from the different sectoral Ministries and agencies, regional secretariats and local government authorities, the private sector, international NGOs, civil society, faith-based organizations, bilateral partners and UN agencies came together to discuss multi-sectorial nutrition programming.

During the three-day forum, participants reviewed implementation of the National Nutrition Strategy (NNS) 2011- 2015 to take stock of progress and to inform development of the 2016-2025 strategy. Coordination systems established at the national, regional and district levels were discussed. Priorities and relevant actions for scaling-up nutrition in Tanzania were also identified. This review has revealed that between 2011 and 2014:

  • There has been a continuous increase in planned nutrition activities at decentralised levels. Health and social welfare, and agriculture and food security are the most funded sectors. But the level of funding is still insufficient.
  • The level of funding of the 2011- 2015 National Nutrition Strategy has been very low: only 10 per cent of total planned budget was spent during the first three years by local government authorities.
  • One third of planned nutrition activities are not aligned with NNS priority areas or NNS strategic objectives.
  • Most of the nutrition funding is allocated to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and food security, while infant and young child feeding and maternal and child malnutrition, which have greater potential impact on stunting, are poorly funded.
  • There is a continuous decrease in the actual execution of planned nutrition activities (from 81% to 56%).
  • Coordination mechanisms for nutrition at all levels need to be improved.

Key recommendations agreed to by all participants at the end of the review are:

  • To establish a Nutrition Basket Fund.
  • To develop a ‘One Plan’ for Nutrition including all activities funded by government budget, local government authorities’ budgets, development partners and NGOs. This plan will include a common result framework and an accountability matrix;
  • To develop and harmonise user-friendly monitoring and evaluation tools and request local government authorities, sectorial ministries and departments and NGOs implementing nutrition activities to report every six months in order to review progress and share results.

Tanzania has built a strong foundation for nutrition through polices, strategies and mechanisms for addressing malnutrition in all its forms. The country is placing strong emphasis on decentralisation to ensure that nutrition is on the agenda with those working at the front-line interface with children and communities.

Multi-stakeholder efforts to scale up nutrition

“This review is a unique event for Tanzania. We need to improve multi-sectoral coordination for nutrition and increase funding for high-impact nutrition interventions. We also need to establish one common plan of action, a common results framework and accountability mechanism”, said Dr. Joyceline Kaganda, acting managing director of the Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre.

“Support provided at this forum by UNICEF to design data collection tools, to process and analyse data and organize discussions with national and decentralised actors demonstrated the organisation’s leadership role. More importantly, the forum has identified the main challenges to overcome: among these is the urgency to act and improve coordination under government leadership on the one hand, and on the other hand, to redirect technical efforts from a current emphasis on the ‘WHAT’, to more focus on the ‘HOW’ to implement. Many countries in Africa can certainly learn from this experience”, said Noel-Marie Zagre, UNICEF Regional Nutrition Advisor for Eastern and Southern Africa.

Major commitments made by the Prime Minister’s office since Tanzania joined the Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) movement in 2011, as an early riser country, have been met, including a budget line for nutrition, the recruitment of nutrition officers, and oversight mechanism through the High-Level Nutrition Steering Committee. In addition, all relevant sectors come together through Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Steering Committees set up at the regional and district levels.

High-level commitment

Support for scaling up nutrition in Tanzania is broad. The President, H.E. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, is a member of the SUN Movement Lead Group and more recently, in 2013, a group of Members of Parliament established a parliamentarian group on nutrition and developed their own action plan for advocating for nutrition as part of their parliamentary activities.

“High level political commitment, increased human resources, increased and potential fund flows are all very positive signs”, said Sudha Sharma, Chief of UNICEF Tanzania’s Health and Nutrition section, at the event. “However, sustained commitment and support will be required to address complex challenges in the actual implementation of the scale-up plans. Some of the key issues that need to be addressed include alignment of local government authorities and all nutrition stakeholders’ activities with the National Nutrition Strategy through systematic coordination at district, regional and national levels and rigorous monitoring and evaluation of progress.”

In Tanzania,wasting prevalence in children under five has reduced from 8% in 1992 to 5% in 2010. Despite this significant progress in acute malnutrition, nearly 200,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition and with 42 per cent stunting prevalence, it is estimated that more than 3 million children under five are stunted. The review highlighted that the situation could significantly be improved if all stakeholders focused on equity, prioritized activities towards behaviour change to increase investment and improve infant and young child feeding, especially feeding frequency and diet diversity for the first six to 23 months.

 

 
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