Development partners gather for Nutrition Network Meeting
Development partners gather for Nutrition Network Meeting pic credit Unicef India

23 Development Partners Gather In Support Of Poshan Abhiyaan

The first of its kind, Development Partners’ Nutrition Network Meeting, held from 11-12 June, 2019 in New Delhi saw 100 representatives from 23 development partners working across 16 states and at the national level come together.

The first of its kind, Development Partners’ Nutrition Network Meeting, held from 11-12 June, 2019 in New Delhi saw 100 representatives from 23 development partners working across 16 states and at the national level come together to discuss actions to support the government’s Poshan Abhiyaan for delivering high impact nutrition interventions.

Tracing the history of evolution of POSHAN Abhiyaan, Jorge Coarasa, Programme Leader, Human Development, World Bank, India, said it has brought Nutrition to centre-stage and the task now is to deliver results. Underscoring the importance of POSHAN Abhiyaan, Arjan de Wagt, Chief of Nutrition at UNICEF, said, “POSHAN Abhiyan is a once in a lifetime opportunity for development partners working in Nutrition to make India free of malnourished children and women.”

The meeting covered both the technical interventions and programme strategies, with a strong focus on coverage, continuity, intensity and quality of nutrition interventions. The 10 sessions organized over the two days addressed cross-cutting themes -- from complementary feeding, severe acute malnutrition, take home rations and convergent action plans to building capacity of frontline workers, Jan Andolan, ICDS-Common Application Software (CAS) and data and monitoring.

The sessions gave a brief introduction to the themes and mentioned some key successes and challenges.

The session on complementary feeding underscored the importance of targeting key influencers, such as mothers, mothers-in-law, fathers and faith leaders, while also utilizing the existing contact points between families and frontline functionaries. The session on Jan Andolan highlighted the need to strengthen systems for effective behaviour change communication. It reinforced the use of media, advocacy and campaigning at the macro level and interpersonal communication, counseling, community dialogue and community media at the micro level.

The session on severe acute malnutrition (SAM) underscored the need to have a “standardized” package of services to promote care of children with SAM at community level. It was concluded that emphasis needs to be on screening, provision of minimum standard package of services, linkage with referral system, follow up and tracking mechanisms.

Recognizing the potential of supplementary feeding in Anganwadis serving as a gateway for other services, the session on take home rations (THR), underlined the importance of improving nutrient density of the THR. The partners highlighted the need to consider logistical and operational issues while improving THR quality. The session on Convergent Action Plans, on the other hand, revealed that development of plans doesn’t need to be complex, but rather focus on key partners and cover key activities in service delivery.

The need to build the capacity of frontline workers was another important and recurrent theme. Incremental Learning delivered to frontline workers either face to face or through e-learning modules allowed workers to deliver their messages in a structured manner. Divya Nair, Director of IDinsight, said, “the capacity development of the frontline health workers is very important, and apart from theoretical knowledge they should ideally also be able to address other determinants such as social norms.”

The backbone of successful programming is an effective monitoring system. Data strengthening for tracking, reporting, assessing, developing and refining programme strategy was highlighted during the sessions. However, strengthening the use of data for strategic action was the primary focus.

Purnima Menon, Senior Research Fellow at International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), said “While many dashboards and sources of data exist, what is crucial for nutrition programming is the use of this data for effective action at multiple levels”. The use of ICDS- Common Application Software (CAS), which is an online mechanism to strengthen the service delivery system and real time monitoring for nutritional outcomes, is another important data intervention that was discussed. Shalini Singh, a consultant at World Bank, said “ICDS-CAS has been heavily influential in making Anganwadi workers more confident of their skills”.

At the end of the meeting, all nutrition partners organized into state teams to prioritize strategic actions under 8 themes for the coming months. This networking meeting allowed development partners to exchange knowledge on what has worked so far and where more joint efforts are needed to achieve better results in a cost-effective manner.

Foroogh Foyouzat, Deputy Representative to UNICEF, said, “A couple of months ago, this meeting was just an idea, and over the last two days it has become a reality due to the countless efforts of the developing partners”.

At the valedictory session, Dr. Vinod Paul, Member, NITI Aayog, said, “This network meeting is an unprecedented and historic event where dynamic and vibrant partnership is emerging. With now sustained level of commitment from the higher levels, we must rise to the occasion with common and standardized POSHAN messages and materials. The partners should look at nutrition holistically to include other issues like childhood illnesses prevention and treatment, maternal nutrition and small babies.