The Transform Nutrition Research Consortium convened the research symposium ‘Evidence for action in East Africa’ on Thursday 8 June 2017, at the Southern Sun hotel, Nairobi, Kenya. A hundred participants from NGOs and academia working on nutrition, health, child welfare and development gathered together with government ministers from Kenya and Ethiopia, donor agency representatives and journalists to discuss the important issue of tackling undernutrition in East Africa.
Children and their mothers suffer disproportionately from the poor health and nutrition situation in Ethiopia
I am currently working as Communications Manager for Amref Health Africa in Ethiopia, the largest African-led International NGO which works to ensure health equity by serving women and children and reaching the most disadvantaged and inaccessible communities. Before this, I worked for Save the Children’s Health and Nutrition team as a Communications and Research Uptake Manager where I disseminated research findings, developed key messages and communications materials on health and nutrition, coordinated the SUN Civil Society Network, and advocated for better health and nutrition services.
However, I wasn’t exposed to nutrition issues until later on in my life. Drought, famine, and the government’s and its partners’ emergency response was all I knew about nutrition issues but I didn’t know about the bigger picture. I started learning more about nutrition at Save the Children, but the first formal training I received was on the Transform Nutrition short course in 2014, where I learnt about the key issues, case studies and country experiences. The short course gave me the confidence I needed to talk about the issues, which had a major impact on my advocacy work at Save the Children and it continues support my communications and advocacy efforts at Amref Health Africa.
For example, I was part of the communications working group at the Ministry of Health so I advised on nutrition advocacy and contributed research uptake materials. As part of this working group, I participated in the development of the nutrition communication section of the National Nutrition Program II, which is currently operational and contributed to Ethiopia’s first 1000 days campaign messaging. At Save the Children, I coordinated, among other things a radio panel seminar with government representation from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Education, as well as Ministry of Women and Children’s Affair.
I have also used Transform Nutrition course materials to develop a media training programme that I have conducted all around Ethiopia. The media in Ethiopia tend focus on food security when covering nutrition related stories so the course teaches journalists how to spread nutrition related lessons, such as back yard gardening, the importance of diversity in diets, agriculture, and the impact of undernutrition on child development so they can present a more rounded and nuanced message for their audience.
A new Transform Nutrition discussion paper is now out The impact of Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme on the nutritional status of children: 2008–2012. Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) is a large-scale social protection intervention aimed at improving food security and stabilizing asset levels. In this paper, we examine the impact of the PSNP on children’s nutritional status over the period 2008–2012 and these findings, along with work by other researchers, have informed revisions to the PSNP.
From 2011-2017 Transform Nutrition has been strengthening the content and use of nutrition-relevant evidence, to accelerate the reduction of undernutrition. On 8 June Transform Nutrition is hosting a regional meeting Using evidence to inspire action in East Africa in Nairobi, Kenya.
This regional meeting will present experiential learning from other African and South Asian countries on key drivers to improve nutrition status, along with evidence on work works in nutrition-sensitive interventions, to policymakers from Kenya and international donors and NGOs in the East Africa region. It aims to inform and equip them to address the particular challenges of tackling child undernutrition in their current contexts. See agenda and press release.
New research just been published by Transform Nutrition and Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Suisse with preliminary findings of a study on Pastoral Community Platforms as Channels for Behavioural Change for Improved Nutrition (BCIN). The research was designed to explore the potential of using pastoral-community platforms for channeling maternal, infant and young-child nutrition messages to community members. We have also published some useful case studies which provide an insight into the perceptions of the participants of the study who live in the study area.
On December 5th, 2016, Transform Nutrition Co-Research Director John Hoddinott, gave a seminar on issues surrounding chronic undernutrition in Ethiopia. In addition to reviewing current trends and the factors associated with these, Dr Hoddinott summarized Transform Nutrition research on chronic undernutrition in Ethiopia, conveying key messages and outlining areas requiring attention in the future. The lecture was attended by representatives from civil society organizations, academics, government officials and researchers. His presentation can be viewed here.
The brief draws attention to the real world challenges of implementing nutrition sensitive agendas and provides recommendations for how to move forward with nutrition sensitive programming in Ethiopia.
An IFPRI blog by Kalle Hirvonen From market to mesob: Ensuring access to food is key to improving diets in Ethiopia highlights Transform Nutrition research in Ethiopia. This research finds that in order to improve diets in Ethiopia, policy makers have to ensure that caregivers have both access to nutritious foods and also the knowledge required to demand such foods. .
Chronic undernutrition in Ethiopia is widespread and many children consume highly monotonous diets. To improve feeding practices in Ethiopia, a strong focus in nutrition programming has been placed on improving the nutrition knowledge of caregivers. In this new Transform Nutrition/ Ethiopia Strategy Support Programme working paper Children’s diets, nutrition knowledge, and access to markets , the impact of improving nutrition knowledge within households and its complementarity with market access is considered.
The Transform Nutrition research brief Reducing Child Undernutrition: Past Drivers and Priorities for the Post-MDG Era, is now available in Amharic. This briefing summarises a paper by Lisa Smith and Lawrence Haddad which used data from 1970-2012 for 116 countries to investigate the factors that have contributed to past reductions in child undernutrition and identify priorities for the future.