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Technical assistance in Ethiopia showcases how improvements in nutrition data can improve decision-making

  |   SUN Country Network, SUN Donor Network

* Originally published by Nutrition International

Nutrition International’s Nutrition Technical Assistance Mechanism (NTEAM) provides technical assistance (TA) to 20 countries that have signed up to the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, with UK aid from the UK government through the TAN project. In 2020, NTEAM conducted progress assessments of eight recent TA assignments. This included the support provided to Ethiopia between July 2017 and 2019 for the implementation of the Seqota Declaration’s Phase 1, a high-level commitment made by the Government of Ethiopia to end childhood stunting and undernutrition by 2030. Among the several findings described below, the assessment found that the TA improved the prioritization of nutrition interventions, having provided decision-makers with better data and new capabilities, and also found that accountability had been enhanced, having supported district-level missions when leaders committed to achieving their targets.

What kind of technical assistance did Nutrition International deliver in Ethiopia?

NTEAM’s TA provider in Ethiopia, Yitbarek Kidane Woldetensay, supported the Federal Programme Delivery Unit’s (FPDU) evaluation of the first phase of the Seqota Declaration, and played a key role in the coordination of partners for the evaluation.1 He helped develop the baseline survey protocol, data collection tools, indicators, questionnaire, and workplan. The TA provider also trained enumerators, supervised field work, and oversaw data cleaning and analysis, all of which resulted in a robust and reliable baseline data report for programming.

So, what did the Progress Assessment say?

The progress assessment reported that the results from the baseline survey equipped the FPDU with appropriate information which enhanced its capability to make informed decisions, identify priority interventions, and to set targets and quarterly and annual key performance indicators. The latter were endorsed by national and subnational stakeholders, which underscores their acknowledgement of the survey’s quality. An inter-ministerial mission in March 2019 to Seqota Declaration woredas (districts) was used to declare commitment and support to ensuring that targets would be met, based on the survey results, which improved the accountability, coordination, and performance-management of Seqota Declaration partners. The survey should also contribute to improving gender equality, by showcasing disparities in nutrition indicators through sex disaggregated data. The baseline survey also highlighted poor access to health facilities, challenging the assumptions that these facilities were best placed for implementation. As a result, there has been a shift to working with community-based groups to scale-up. A monitoring framework developed by the TA provider was reported to be a useful tool to help monitor nutrition actions at the subnational level.

The TA also helped to make a case for further investment to increase the number of nutrition-related interventions to be delivered at scale, by using evidence from the evaluation to strengthen sector information briefs. The FPDU utilized these briefs to successfully advocate for increased funding, which resulted in an additional investment from the African Development Bank. The data from the baseline survey was also used during the 74th United Nations General Assembly in 2019 to showcase progress achieved on the Government of Ethiopia’s high-level commitment to end stunting in children under two by 2030 and build interest in the cross-sectoral response, which has evolved into a model for operationalizing effective cross-government collaboration that could be applied in other countries.

As evidenced from the progress assessment in Ethiopia, nutrition data has been essential to making informed decisions for programming, improving coordination and accountability, increasing resource mobilization.

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