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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2016 ROSA/EAPRO: Maternal and Young Child Nutrition Security Initiative in Asia [MYCNSIA]: External Evaluation of the EU-UNICEF Partnership 2011-2015

Executive summary

With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System (GEROS)". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports. The quality rating scale for evaluation reports is as follows: “Highly Satisfactory”, “Satisfactory”, “Fair” or “Unsatisfactory”. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labelled as ‘Part 2’ of the report, and the executive feedback summary labelled as 'Part 3'.


High levels of stunting and/or wasting among children under age 5, as well as high (>30 per cent) or very high (>40 per cent) levels of chronic malnutrition in some Asian countries are persistent and complex problems. In response to these challenges, a joint programme of the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), devised an initiative to improve maternal and young child nutrition. The five-year programme (2011–2015) was known as the Maternal and Young Child Nutrition Security Initiative in Asia (MYCNSIA). The initiative aimed to reduce undernutrition, particularly stunting and anaemia, in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Nepal and the Philippines. MYCNSIA was based on the ‘fi rst 1,000 days’ approach which promotes good nutrition for pregnant and lactating women and infants up to 2 years of age as the best and most cost-effective intervention for avoiding irreversible damage to physical growth and intellectual
capacities from undernutrition.

The overall target of MYCNSIA was to achieve a 5 percentage point reduction in stunting and a 15 per cent reduction in anaemia among pregnant women and children in each of the five countries through work under four pillars: (pillar 1) upstream policy development; (pillar 2) capacity development; (pillar 3) nutrition information systems and knowledge management; and (pillar 4) direct nutrition interventions. The interventions fell into two broad categories. The first category included high impact nutrition interventions such as maternal, infant and young child feeding, micronutrient supplementation, fortification of staple foods and management of acute malnutrition and so on. The second category of interventions aimed to position nutrition security high on regional agendas and was implemented by the Programme Management Unit (PMU) located in the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA) in Kathmandu and the East Asia and Pacific Regional Office
(EAPRO) in Bangkok.


UNICEF entered into a long-term agreement with ETC Netherlands for a series of external evaluations of joint action programmes on nutrition security, including MYCNSIA in South Asia and South-East Asia. The mid-term evaluation (MTE) of MYCNSIA was implemented in 2013 and entailed a review of the design and implementation process in the first two years of operation. The aim was to identify enhancing and limiting factors at regional, national and local levels and to highlight results that were achieved. The end-term evaluation (ETE) is intended to meet accountability obligations towards the donor (EU) and identify best practices and lessons learned as input for future policymaking and programming on nutrition security. The main users of the information generated in the
ETE are the implementing partners in the evaluated countries, UNICEF regional and country offices, and the EU and other donors that contributed to MYCNSIA.

The Terms of Reference for the ETE build on the evaluation criteria of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). This external evaluation was commissioned to do the following:

  • Obtain an unbiased assessment of whether policy and programme inputs have led and/or contributed to the achievement of the anticipated programme results, such as outputs, outcomes and impact;
  • Examine programme achievements, identify programme barriers, challenges and study determinants for success; and
  • Provide recommendations based on solid evidence and lessons learned on how best to improve nutrition security among women and young children in the South Asia and South-East Asia sub-regions.


Evaluations of MYCNSIA were undertaken in 2013 at the mid-point of the initiative (mid-term evaluation (MTE)) and in 2015 as the initiative came to an end (ETE). A uniform framework of questions for the ETE was developed during the inception phase (February – April 2015).The norms and standards established by the United Nations Evaluation Group provided overall guidance while the evaluation criteria (relevance, equity, effectiveness, effectiveness, impact and sustainability) of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) formed the evaluation framework. Mixed methods were used to answer the specific evaluation questions of the ETE. As per the Terms of Reference, the ETE emphasized lessons learned and good practices to inform future programmes. Data collection took place during week-long site visits to each of the five MYCNSIA countries (April – May 2015) and meetings were
held in Bangkok and Kathmandu with regional stakeholders. The data gathered through visits and meetings were complemented by a review of documentation made available by UNICEF and collected through web searches.

Findings and Conclusions:

Main conclusions

  1. UNICEF is widely appreciated and acclaimed for its role in helping national Governments to develop policies and support them all the way to implementation.
  2. Achievements in ‘mainstreaming nutrition’ in the health sector have been convincing. This in itself is a formidable success and one that should not be underestimated.
  3. The programme design had multiple implications for programme relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability.
  4. Typical regional functions were not well defi ned and as a consequence they were insufficiently pursued. Moreover, the MTE conclusion on meagre (“mixed”) results
    of capacity development still stands.



  1. In future programme design UNICEF should outline strategic and competitive advantages for which the organization is known and widely appreciated. UNICEF should thus profile its programmes as professional and reliable technical assistance and support to government endeavours.
  2. Operationalize the argument that nutrition sensitive actions can follow on and benefit from a nutrition specific foundation.
  3. Use data and knowledge on ‘what works’ and why it works to boost evidence based regional programming in order to help governments address persistent chronic undernutrition.
  4. Ensure the programme design includes indicators for the regional office(s) on typical regional functions, such as learning lessons and identifying common drivers for success. Ensure the programme design specifies the point in time and the forum for sharing knowledge and experience.

Funding agency (EU)

  1. The funding agency should require that future regional joint action with UNICEF to address persistent chronic undernutrition.
  2. The funding agency should require the regional office(s) to demonstrably act as knowledge hubs. This should include the use of data and knowledge on ‘what works’ and why it works to boost evidence based regional programming. Country offices should be supported to mobilize, analyse, use and share data and the lessons they imply to this effect.

Lessons Learned:

The ETE team drew 20 lessons learned, chosen for their potential applicability and relevance to future programming.

The lessons are clustered in five categories as follows:

  • Programme design;
  •  Equity/effective coverage;
  • Nutrition specific/sensitive linkages (convergence and/or mainstreaming);
  • Programme monitoring systems; and
  • Learning with and for Governments, with design implications for future programmes

Full report in PDF

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Report information






Sequence #:
ROSA 2016/001

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