One joint programme focuses on maternal health and nutrition (UNFPA and WFP) in Jere and Konduga. Another programme targets the critical first 1,000 days of a child’s life, from conception to 23 months of age. WFP provided cash transfers to pregnant and lactating women or other caregivers of children 6−23 months, based on their enrolment in the UNICEF-supported ante/postnatal care and immunization service. Furthermore, programmes that implement nutrition-sensitive agriculture are currently active in six states (Adamawa, Borno, Cross-River, Federal Capital Territory, Kaduna and Yobe) but on a limited scale.
For the crucial factor of budgeting, DPN advocates for Federal and State governments to include nutrition when allocating resources from annual as well as COVID-19 funding. From May 2019 to April 2020, the DPN gave financial support to the National Committee on Food and Nutrition and their state counterparts. In addition, the DPN collaborated with the Governor’s Forum, a non-partisan platform to push nutrition scorecards as well as share peer learnings among States.
Aligning with government
The ultimate goal of the DPN is to work more efficiently with national government as a united front. Simeon cited a recent example. “When the election took place [in February 2019] and the government was in transition, we drafted a policy note that represented all our interests to point out the priorities we have for nutrition.”
The two-page Policy Note highlighted current figures for quick reference. In 2019, 321,300 children under the age of five died because of malnutrition. Almost one-third of children under five, 13.1 million, are stunted and 7 percent suffer from wasting. Micronutrient deficiencies impact 49 percent of reproductive-age women and 71 percent of children suffer from anaemia.
The Policy Note recommended the following four steps for government action. With the assistance of the UNRC’s office, here are the outcomes so far.
- Improve and strengthen coordination, leadership and accountability for nutrition
In 2020, a meeting was held virtually on 28th July with participation from the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Ministry of Information, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, among others. In the meeting, Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) who did not have budget lines for nutrition in the past reported now having dedicated budget lines.
- Ensure predictable and sustained funding
As of September 2020, most of the states that have adopted the National Food and Nutrition policy have budget lines for nutrition across various sectors. However, fund releases remain a major constraint.
- Develop a common results monitoring framework to track implementation progress
The Nigeria Governors Forum convened multi-government stakeholders to develop nutrition scorecards that will track governments’ commitments and investment in nutrition and peer learning among states.
- Strengthen relevant sectoral systems for improved nutrition service delivery
The cost of the National Multi-sectoral Plan of Action for Food and Nutrition (2018‒2025) is currently being reviewed with a focus on nutrition components across line ministries, to ensure realistic planning, costing and spending on nutrition by states.
Overall, the impact of the Policy Note has allowed the government to make decisions based on an agreed-upon agenda from a multitude of stakeholders.
Nutrition in the Humanitarian-Development Nexus
The North East region experiences regular conflict which has killed over 37,000 people. “We still have over 10.6 million living in that region. 1.6 million people have started returning to ‘safe areas’,” Kallon reflected. To address this, the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) articulates nutrition as a collective outcome of the Humanitarian Development Nexus (HDN), an important step forward. Currently, FAO and WFP are jointly implementing a nutrition-sensitive agriculture project in the North East to protect nutritional status and build resilience. Additional work is underway to align humanitarian assistance with the government’s health package provided through primary care, a concept that aims to facilitate coordination among the diverse stakeholders.
Resident Coordinator Eddie Kallon explained, “For me, the Humanitarian-Development Nexus is about helping affected people to transform their lives from being dependent to being self-sustaining and resilient. It is about finding the opportunities to make people’s lives better while mitigating threats, building on the strengths of the individuals, their communities and their governments and helping them to deal with any weaknesses that encumber their abilities to be self-sustaining.”
In the longer term, a food-systems approach will be crucial for improving food security, nutrition and the environment concurrently. Kallon also pointed out that “Emergency water supply systems are also being replaced by longer-term arrangements that can be managed by beneficiary communities.”