11 November 2016: Tanzania joint multi-sectoral nutrition review 2016
Taking stock of where we came from and where we are going
The central theme of the event was ‘Nutrition for Human Capital Development: Invest Now for Future Economic Prosperity’. The JMNR not only provided an opportunity to take stock of progress and launch a five-year plan, it also re-affirmed that addressing chronic malnutrition is a shared responsibility to an audience of more than 200 participants, including government ministries, departments and agencies, regional administration and local government authorities, UN agencies, donor organizations, CSOs, as well as members of the business community, academia, research institutions and the media.
This event, however, was not just business as usual. While a key objective was to assess progress made under the 2011–2016 National Nutrition Strategy (NNS) and discuss challenges and lessons learnt for future interventions, the event was also memorable for its multi-sectoral approach, which remains unique in Africa. It also underlined the human and economic costs of malnutrition, calling for further investment in children.
In her opening remarks, Dr. Zainab Chaula, the Deputy Permanent Secretary responsible for health from the President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government Authority, highlighted the vital need for developing countries like Tanzania to address the consequences of malnutrition in order to make headway with development goals. As Dr. Chaula stated, “Nutrition is unquestionably a cross-cutting issue that impacts every walk of life, particularly in health, education, agriculture, livestock, economic sectors, the human capital and national development issues.”
Some key findings from the review include the fact that, between 2010 and 2015, the prevalence of stunting among children under the age of 5 has been reduced from 42% to 34%. However, funding remains an issue. Despite the fact that there has been a continuous increase in average nutrition spending per municipal/district council from TZS65 million to TZS125 million per year, the funding of the 2011–2016 NNS was insufficient and allocation of funds did not take into account priority regions with the highest number of stunted children.
Another key aim of the JMNR was to disseminate the National Multi-sectoral Nutrition Action Plan (NMNAP) 2016–21 with key stakeholders. The new NMNAP was developed through a participatory process, based on evidence generated in the country over the past few years. The JMNR 2016 was also an opportunity to share the results of the bottleneck analysis of four key nutrition interventions. The analysis pointed towards quality coverage of interventions except Vitamin A supplementation, insufficient availability of trained services and frequent stock-out of commodities specifically for infant and young child feeding and treatment of severe acute malnutrition for children. The expected impact of the plan is that “children, adolescents, women and men in Tanzania are better nourished, leading to healthier and more productive lives that contribute to economic growth and sustainable development”. This will be reached through seven different outcomes, which include scaling up specific nutrition interventions and nutrition-sensitive interventions, and interventions to strengthen enabling environment for nutrition.
Lessons learnt from the NNS 2011–16 will guide the implementation of the National Multi-sectoral Nutrition Action Plan (NMNAP) 2016–21. Accordingly, at the end of the review, it was recommended to link the results of the bottleneck analysis of key nutrition interventions with the preparation of annual work plan at the decentralized levels and to ensure alignment of these plans plan with the outputs of the NMNAP. The review also emphasized the need to develop a resource mobilization strategy, including domestic resources to support NMNAP funding. Importantly, the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the President’s Office for Regional Administrative and Local Government announced its commitment to issue a directive to urge all municipal/district councils to allocate a minimum of TZS1000 per child under the age of 5 for the fiscal year 2017/18 to support specific nutrition interventions and create an enabling environment.
In her speech, the UNICEF Tanzania Country Representative, Ms. Maniza Zaman, congratulated the Government of Tanzania and partners for becoming the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to have organized such joint multi-sectoral nutrition reviews. The Regional Nutrition Advisor for Eastern and Southern Africa, Dr. Joan Matji, commended the Government of Tanzania for its continued commitment to address malnutrition, underscoring the need to increase investment in nutrition for future economic prosperity.
Millions of stunted children in Tanzania do not reach their full potential, the consequences of which are felt throughout their lives. When compared to a well-nourished child, a stunted child completes fewer years of schooling, learns more slowly, and earns lower wages in adulthood, making him or her much less likely to escape a life of poverty (Global Nutrition Report, 2015).
Malnutrition also undermines national economic growth and development. It is estimated that Tanzania will lose US$20 billion by 2025 if the nutrition situation in the country does not improve. In contrast, by investing in nutrition and improving the population's nutritional status, the country could gain up to US$4.7 billion by 2025 (Nutrition Profiles, Tanzania, 2014).