Investing in the data value chain for nutrition in West Africa
by Roos Verstraeten (TNWA/IFPRI), Rebecca Heidkamp (DataDENT) and Barbara Baille (UNICEF)
The Together for Nutrition: West African Data Forum was convened in Saly, Senegal in February 2020 by a group of regional and global partners. The group was led by Transform Nutrition West Africa, an initiative of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and also included UNICEF, DataDENT, Countdown to 2030, Alive & Thrive, USAID, WHO, WAHO, and NIPN.
The forum brought together 93 participants from key national and regional institutions across West Africa that generate and/or use nutrition-related data. The objectives of the forum were to:
I) Share national and regional achievements and challenges in operationalizing the data value chain for nutrition;
II) Strengthen connectivity, coordination, and collaboration on data-driven nutrition action;
III) Formulate a call to action to strengthen the data value chain for nutrition at country and regional level; and
IV) Identify stakeholder groups to take up and support the call to action.
Through a mix of plenary and breakout sessions that included panels, discussions, training exercises and visual notetaking, we took stock of the data value chain for nutrition in the West African region (Figure 1). Over the course of the two days, we learned about relevant country and regional experiences from participating policymakers, government staff, implementing partners, research and statistical institutes, donors, and international agencies. Finally, on the last day of the forum, participants synthesized lessons learnt for each stage of the nutrition data value chain and prioritized key actions for the region.
As a result, participants from 15 ECOWAS countries, developed a common Call To Action for strengthening nutrition data value chains directed to national and regional governments, donors, UN agencies, implementing partners, and researchers. This Call To Action has undergone a thorough review process and reflects the priorities of individuals and institutions working with and for nutrition data across West Africa.
Participants suggested various ways to adapt and use the Call To Action in their specific context. For example, at regional level, the Call to Action could be voted upon and adopted during the session of the ECOWAS Assembly of Ministers of Health. At national level, a country-specific policy note could be developed to accompany the Call To Action and recommend context-specific actions by national stakeholders. In addition, the Call to Action can be referenced during national policy development to support priorities and investment by government agencies and donors.