For every child: nutrition

UNICEF regional nutrition meeting held in Johannesburg with an aim to improve nutrition outcomes across the region

UNICEF/2019/The Capital Empire Hotel

02 October 2019

UNICEF’s Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Nutrition Network Meeting, held in Johannesburg from 26th-30th of August 2019, brought together 56 participants including 40 UNICEF nutrition (and/or health and nutrition) staff based in field and country offices in 18 of the region’s 21 country offices.

Also participating was a colleague from Headquarters Programme Division, and twelve participants from a range of UNICEF sections – Nutrition, Communications, Communication for Development, Evaluations, Health, Human Resources, Humanitarian Action, Resilience and Peacebuilding, Programme Planning and Monitoring, Public Private Partnerships, Supply, and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.

“Beyond working across teams in UNICEF, it is important to harness the partnerships especially in the UN family, with WFP, UNHCR, WHO and FAO.”

– Bo Viktor Nylund, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa

We were joined by the UNICEF South Africa Representative, Sanjay Wijesekera, during the opening session and to give expert inputs to the WASH and nutrition session. An additional 25 colleagues, including colleagues from UNICEF headquarters, UNICEF Brussels office, and nutrition staff from the country offices who could not attend the meeting in person, joined selected sessions that were live-streamed across the region. External speakers, Leonard Mizzi from the EU, Jean Humphrey from Zvitambo Institute for Maternal and Child Research and Steve Collins from Valid International also shared their expert inputs.

With expert facilitation that encouraged open and active discussion, the meeting provided an opportunity to share updates on relevant UNICEF global and regional frameworks for action; created a collective understanding of the regional priorities; facilitated south-to-south learning; discussed emerging areas in nutrition, financing, WASH and nutrition integration, and spatial sampling for surveys. The meeting also presented an opportunity to discuss UNICEF’s role in improving nutrition outcomes through using a systems approach to programme implementation.

“In everything we do, wherever we are – low and middle income countries, humanitarian settings, or in development settings, we need to take a systems approach to make sure that we leave behind systems that are stronger than the systems that we found.”

– Victor Aguayo, Associate Director Nutrition

Participants left with new ideas, perspectives and calls to action, including ensuring that their nutrition programmes are structured around the six new results areas of the new Nutrition Strategic Plan using relevant platforms across the different systems; aligning nutrition humanitarian response to UNICEF’s new Core Commitments for Children; planning for evidence-based scale-up with data to target and better monitor interventions; using research findings for evidence-based advocacy; support programming for school-aged children based on new emerging evidence-guidance to be disseminated by end of 2019. The meeting also discussed that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be achieved without private sector engagement.

“As UNICEF, we need to explore more opportunities for private sector engagement for enhanced results for children without compromising UNICEF’s principles.”

– Joan Matji, UNICEF Regional Adviser for Nutrition

In her summary remarks, Joan highlighted that while progress is being made towards regional and global targets, this needs to be accelerated in order to meet the SDGs. Key takeaways include – the importance of increasing coverage: scale and integration matter; evidence and data enable prioritization and highlight disparities; community engagement is key; results need to be documented; high level advocacy is crucial to increase government prioritization of nutrition and to ensure that prevention of all forms of malnutrition is the primary goal.