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Nutrition Catalyst Team established in Tanzania

  |   SUN UN Network

How can you tackle a problem like stunting, without knowing where it is worst and what is driving it? A lack of strong and routine data is holding back efforts to end malnutrition and stunting in Tanzania. This is true both on the nutrition-specific, and nutrition-sensitive sides. Furthermore, it can be hard to create enthusiasm for data collection at local level when there is no feedback on the data they are submitting – they don’t see the benefit and the relevance of data to make their own decisions.

Not only that, but how do we coordinate in a field as busy as nutrition? So many different sectors must collaborate, and at all levels; from WASH to education, from infrastructure to governance. We need to find new ways to foster collaboration and cooperation without becoming overwhelmed with endless management activity. Tanzania is making good progress against stunting – it fell from 42 per cent to 34 per cent between 2005 and 2010, but tackling these systemic issues will be vital to getting it down further.

To this end, the Government of Tanzania, supported by WFP is setting up a central ‘Catalyst Team’ to steer efforts against malnutrition. This team will be driven by routine district-level data to have a real-time view of where to focus efforts and from where lessons can be learned for nutrition interventions in Tanzania. The team will also foster collaboration at a local level. It is neither a committee, nor a ‘platform’ but a dedicated team focussed on acting to build up existing data systems and to capacitate local governments to work together in the way they must to end malnutrition for all Tanzanians. The Catalyst Team’s work will be in line with, and help to accelerate, the implementation of the National Multisectoral Nutrition Action Plan (NMNAP) – the government action plan of the 2016 Food and Nutrition Policy. They have a long to do list, not only analysing data, but building the systems, improving quality and getting out into communities to foster collaboration.

The team was born out of work conducted by Boston Consulting Group, a pro bono partner of WFP. Looking at successful efforts to bring down stunting in many places, such as Senegal, Peru, Mauritania and Maharastra (India), they used cutting-edge management theory ‘Smart Simplicity’ to identify what made these efforts successful. Amongst 12 common factors*  were the availability of good data and a central team with access to decision-makers to direct actions. As well as this, strong links and feedback between the national and local levels were key, with empowered stakeholders at every level. These recommendations have been adapted to existing Tanzanian structures – the last thing we want is to add further complexity to the multiplicity of actors.

The team is running on an interim basis and is actively looking for funds to carry it forward for four further years. To bolster data systems, to roll out anthropometric equipment and to build up links right across the country is estimated to cost in the region of USD16m.

 


* WFP is supporting the Government of Tanzania to establish a ‘Catalyst Team’ in an effort to obtain real-time, nutrition data (including district-level data), both building upon existing data systems and strengthening the capacity of local governments to work better. This work is inspired by the Smart Simplicity management theory and other projects conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, a pro bono partner of WFP, in other countries. For further information, please contact nluitfrid@gmail.com.

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