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Empowering sub-national government with the capacity to track nutrition actions in Ethiopia

  |   SUN Country Network, SUN Donor Network

* Originally published by Nutrition International

(c) Photo: UNICEF

Since 2017, Nutrition International has supported the Government of Ethiopia build its capacity to implement the Seqota Declaration. The approach taken by NTEAM’s TAN project has privileged empowerment and sustainability, strengthening capabilities at the Federal Program Delivery Unit and throughout the 40 Woredas prioritized by the Declaration. Most recently, technical assistance has focused on the tracking of nutrition resources and actions at local and national levels, with a gender-sensitive lens.

Ethiopia joined the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement in 2012, and in 2015 announced the Seqota Declaration (SD), a high-level commitment to end childhood stunting and undernutrition by 2030. The declaration has 10 Seqota Declaration Strategic Objectives (SDSOs) that aim to improve health and nutritional status, food supply, agricultural productivity, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), gender equality and safety net programs, while strengthening multi-sectoral coordination and spurring innovation.

Since 2017, Nutrition International’s Nutrition Technical Assistance Mechanism (NTEAM), through the Technical Assistance for Nutrition (TAN) project, has supported the Government of Ethiopia with several aspects of the SD’s rollout, primarily through the Program Delivery Unit (PDU) which has been tasked with coordinating its multi-sectoral implementation. Most recently, NTEAM’s support through TAN directly responded to the need, identified by the Government of Ethiopia and partners,[1] for a routine system to track budgets, funding and expenditures for nutrition across sectors at the district (Woreda), regional and federal levels.

With Nutrition International’s technical oversight and guidance, and in consultation with Woreda stakeholders, the PDU developed a Capacity Development Plan (CDP), translated into Amharic, covering nutrition finance analysis, resource tracking, and accountability and partnership management via the SD’s online partnership management system (SOPS). This plan is intended for use by Woreda Coordinators and Woreda Nutrition Coordination Boards, together with regional PDUs. Nearly 150 people, representing Woreda Administrators, Nutrition Focal Persons and Nutrition Finance Experts in each of the 40 priority Woredas, were trained on this system and can now manage partnerships in accordance with the plan, greatly enhancing the government’s ability to track nutrition expenditures and actions for each of the ten objectives.

In 2020, Nutrition International went beyond developing guidelines and tools and delivering training sessions, and intensively supported data collection with the Woreda teams each quarter to ensure that they would be able to utilize the tools going forward. Under the TAN project, NTEAM also started a training of trainers for regional PDU officers to ensure sustainability for the CDP. These efforts are empowering the Woredas to identify gaps in funding, and to request resources needed to fully fund nutrition activities and meet their annual SDSO targets.

Nutrition International’s technical assistance seeks to strengthen the capabilities of existing government structures and processes, a long-term process that lays the foundation for sustainable and long-lasting nutrition outcomes (see Theory of Change in image below). To sustain this capacity development approach beyond the end of this specific technical assistance, the Ethiopia Public Health Institute has partnered with the PDU and will take over the CDP’s implementation, including the SOPS.

Important lessons have emerged from NTEAM’s capacity development work:

  • Collecting data on financial investment in nutrition is not always straightforward. Implementing partners may be reluctant to share financial data, and government allocation processes can be difficult to track. For example, in early 2020, the financial analysis on the previous two quarters (EFY 2012 Q1 and Q2) revealed that the resource allocation process did not always follow a systematic process, resulting in over and under allocations of the SDSOs based on the costed Woreda plans.
  • Context-specific tools for gender equality improve awareness and capacity for mainstreaming gender. In 2019, the TAN project carried out a retrospective gender assessment of the baseline report to identify missed opportunities for including gender equality considerations. This also informed the development of guidelines for Gender Mainstreaming in Nutrition. In early 2020, a gender checklist was developed to guide the integration of gender in resource allocation and planning for nutrition. Woreda officials acknowledged this had helped staff gain a common understanding on gender and use harmonized tools for training and assessment. Referencing the gender checklist during quarterly review meetings and budget planning sessions going forward will ensure it continues to be used.

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