Participants engage in discussion at the Transform Nutrition West Africa consultation. Photo: IFPRI
Transform Nutrition-West Africa is a new regional platform, which aims to enable effective policy and programmatic action on nutrition in West Africa. The three-year program is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and led by the International Food Policy and Research Institute (IFPRI).
In February, approximately 30 stakeholders from West Africa came together for a consultation meeting in Dakar, Senegal, to discuss the Transform Nutrition plan of work for the next three years. The group included a mix of donors, non-governmental organizations, and representatives from the United Nations, government, and research. Meeting objectives were:
The program’s overall approach is being guided by the context in West Africa and, in particular, focal countries Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal, so this meeting was crucial to get input from those who will be most closely involved.
Regional nutritional challenges
Stuart Gillespie presents at the Transform Nutrition West Africa consultation. Photo: IFPRI
After an introduction to the program by Stuart Gillespie (Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI), Roos Verstraeten (Research Coordinator, Transform Nutrition West Africa, IFPRI) outlined the levels and trends in outcomes, drivers of, and programs for different forms of malnutrition in West Africa. She reported that prevalence levels of all World Health Assembly (WHA) global nutrition targets remain high across the region, and although some progress has been made, most countries are off track for meeting the WHA targets. In addition, overweight in females and children under age five is on the rise, and often coexists alongside undernutrition. A variety of factors drive the burden of under and over nutrition, including low rates of exclusive breast feeding, inadequate dietary diversity among children between 6 and 23 months of age, inadequate WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) practices, low access to sanitation (deteriorating in Nigeria), and insufficient access to health services. Verstraeten also noted that recent data for each of the WHA targets are often missing. Some conclusions were:
Participants noted the need to understand why the research on problems and prevalence is so abundant, yet not being translated into programs in the region, and indicated a desire to understand why Francophone countries have less published research than Anglophone countries, including details on who authors the studies and who funds them.
Policy and program landscapes, and stakeholder/organization mapping
Emilie Buttarelli (consultant) outlined the current policy action at the regional level to address these malnutrition problems:
Participants suggested the analysis focus not only on WHA targets, but also on priorities set at country level.
Buttarelli went on to present the West Africa stakeholder and organizational mapping, outlining key people and organizations responsible for policies and programs in the region. She noted challenges including the need for a more thorough investigation of the influence of the private sector and the need to further understand what drives different actors.
Stakeholder interview highlights
Mara van den Bold, (Senior Research Analyst, IFPRI) presented key findings of interviews which sought to capture stakeholders’ knowledge and perceptions about the political environment of nutrition in West Africa. Common themes included:
Participants at the Transform Nutrition West Africa consultation. Photo: IFPRI
Future priorities for action
The day ended with a lively prioritization session in which the participants were divided into working groups. Through discussion, each group was asked to narrow their combined priority options down to a list of 10, and then five.
The final top five priorities were:
Those not able to attend the meeting contributed to this process afterwards. All of the presentations are available in dropbox.
This post was written by Samantha Reddin, Nutrition Communications Manager at the Institute of Development Studies.