On 29 January 2018, African leaders made a landmark commitment to remove nutrition-related barriers that prevent children and societies from realizing their full potential. The leaders made the commitments at the launch of African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN) − an initiative championed by the African Development Bank and the African Union Commission – in Addis Ababa, where they agreed to jointly overcome malnutrition and elevate nutrition as driver for economic growth and sustainable development.
The SUN Movement is a renewed global effort to eliminate all forms of malnutrition, based on the principle that everyone has a right to food and good nutrition. The Movement is unique by bringing different groups of people together – governments, civil society, the UN, donors, businesses and scientists – in a collective action to improve nutrition. Launched in 2010, it is not a fund, an institution or an agency; rather, it is strengthening political commitments and accountability for those commitments.
Sierra Leone is among sixty (60) countries committed to improving the nutrition of their people. Their efforts are supported by four global networks – donor, civil society, the UN and private sector.
National governments are establishing four strategic SUN processes, which, taken together, can transform ways of working and provide a framework within which different sectors of government agree on optimal policies, well-developed plans and efficient systems for implementation.
The SUN Movement has grown hugely, and national governments are now determined to translate political commitment into action and demonstrable results.
The real opportunities occur every day in SUN countries. The ongoing efforts of individuals and agencies working together through multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral groups are transforming the nutrition landscape. These groups align their support behind government priorities to develop policies, implement actions, maximize resources, and increase capacity to achieve and monitor results to improve nutrition. These actions provide the inspiration for the SUN Movement.
The civil society, the UN and private sector are already actively supporting government to scale up nutrition. They include smallholder farmer groups, women’s organizations, fishermen, religious and faith-based organizations as well as national and international NGO, other development partners etc. These groups act together through SUN Network alliances, working towards the common aim of improving nutrition.
The bigger constituency of stakeholders (Civil society) has a crucial role in aligning their programs – particularly in hard-to-reach areas – with government plans and in advocating for better nutrition.
Much has been learned about multi-stakeholder engagement for nutrition over the last few years. SUN Movement Sierra Leone has put in place multi-stakeholder platform (MSP) for food and nutrition, at the national and district levels. While the structure, hosting arrangements, extent of participation and working procedures vary greatly from district to district.
Over time, participation in national MSP is growing: from limited engagement by a few ministries at the start to broad participation by multiple ministries and nongovernmental groups – UN system agencies (REACH), civil society organizations and donor agencies. Business and academic institutions are steadily moving up to be part of the national MSPs. MSPs can help resolve conflicts of interest. Ensuring that many stakeholders with varying agenda participate in MSPs involves challenges. At the same time, MSPs serve as a useful venue for preventing, identifying and resolving any conflicts that may emerge.
Through the involvement of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, we are increasingly decentralizing MSPs in in the District councils. They convene MSPs at district and community levels, rolling out national nutrition plans while adapting them so that they reflect the interests of local communities.
The involvement of the local councils is important for mobilizing communities so that they engage in advocacy, planning and actions to improve nutrition. Civil society plays a key role in linking local communities to national government and helping different stakeholder groups come together at local level to focus on food and nutrition. The MSPs perform best when stakeholders agree on clear purposes and actions. MSPs are now performing a range of key functions including: identifying priorities, developing strategies, multi-sectoral planning, mapping stakeholder resources; aligning actions of multiple stakeholders, and jointly monitoring progress. Reliable monitoring of progress, evaluation of outcomes and demonstration of results as core functions.
SUN countries are aiming to meet by 2025 the six targets agreed at the World Health Assembly in May 2012:
- 40% reduction of under 5 Stunting
- 50% reduction of anemia
- 30% reduction of low birth weight
- Increase exclusive breastfeeding rates in the first six months up to at least 50%
- No increase in childhood overweight
- Reducing childhood wasting to less than 5%
Aware of the debilitating effects of under-nutrition in achieving sustainable growth and human development, Government has prioritized Nutrition and Food Security as a flagship programme, that is why the SUN secretariat is located within the Presidency and coordinated by the Office of the Vice President; giving it political support and superintendence at the highest level.
In pursuit of this commitment to achieve Nutrition and Food Security for all, Sierra Leone as member of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Global Movement is calling on all sectors to collaboratively join the fight to end hunger and malnutrition.
-The author is National Coordinator, Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Global Movement –Sierra Leone, Office of the Vice President