From: "shansch"

Subject: for your interest: nutrition collaboration- Unicef & WB

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 15:32:26 -0500


Partnering for Nutrition
Close collaboration with UNICEF aimed at policy change


January 24, 2000—The World Bank and UNICEF—both leaders in the fight against malnutrition for over 30 years—have come together to figure out how they can work more closely in this effort.

Meeting at World Bank headquarters last week, nutrition experts and managers from both agencies worked on a plan to carry out this collaboration, as well as moved forward on their joint nutrition assessment study, to be completed by the middle of this year.

The World Bank and UNICEF have been leaders in the fight against malnutrition for the last three decades (UNICEF photo). “There is strong support from the nutrition experts and country representatives of both organizations for working together,” says World Bank Nutrition Advisor Milla McLachlan. “We are looking at ways to make greater use of UNICEF’s considerable strength at the country level—both in terms of analysis and interaction with government on nutritional issues—and at ways for the Bank to use this advantage in project design.” “While collaboration with UNICEF is not a new concept, we are looking for ways to make it more widespread,” she added.

Worldwide, 200 million children are under age five, and nearly one in three is malnourished, hindering cognitive development and contributing to half of all child deaths. Despite steady improvement in nutrition in many developing countries, the rate has been very slow and slowed down further during the 1990s. Two areas—East and West Africa—are actually showing significant increases in the prevalence of malnutrition.

In countries as diverse as Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, Thailand, Costa Rica, and Zimbabwe, malnutrition can be effectively addressed, at reasonable cost, through appropriate programs and strategies, backed up by sustained political support. 

Last week’s workshop was just one step in a year-long effort by the Bank and UNICEF to produce a joint nutrition assessment study focused on the roles of the two agencies in nutrition policy and practice, at global and country levels. The study began in mid-1999 and will be completed by mid-2000.

The study consists of three components: analysis of policy change in international nutrition, background portfolio reviews of the two agencies’ work in nutrition, and country case studies. The final report will be input into a new Bank strategy on tackling malnutrition, as well as guide UNICEF in its strategy.

In addition to examining the methods that have proven effective in combating malnutrition, as well as the obstacles to progress, the final report will reflect a comparison of the methods the two institutions have used to influence policy and strategy, build capacity development, and implement programs.

The World Bank’s investments in nutrition have consistently focused on notjust providing resources, but on affecting policy and program choices and increasing the level of country support for nutrition action. Over a period of 25 years, the Bank has committed about $2 billion in 78 countries to further nutritional goals. For its part, UNICEF has supported practical, low-cost interventions that have proven effective and a more explicit advocacy stance, using a rights-based strategy and time-bound goals and targets to promote specific actions and policy changes in countries.

The workshop focused, in particular, on the study’s policy analysis component, an innovative technique of looking at key “stories” that impact policy. What this means is that with certain ideas as a departure point, the study examines “narratives” that drive existing policy, including its implementation and how it changes.

A policy narrative is essentially a story, having a beginning, middle, and end, outlining a specific course of events that provides a plausible explanation for a problem and actions to be taken, and that has gained the status of conventional wisdom within the development arena. “Malnutrition results from inadequate food production and increased production is the answer” is one; “malnutrition is due to ignorance about feeding practices and nutrition education solves the problem” is another.

There are also food-biased or health-biased narratives, including, for example, “nutrition improvement will flow from poverty alleviation,” and “community-based programs are the answer.” Since policymakers often base decisions on such narratives, their analysis will derive the factors and processes that drive change. Participants analyzed malnutrition stories related to causes and consequences, improvement, “hidden hunger” or micronutrient deficiency control, and institutional factors.

Country representatives emphasized that in Africa, in particular, where resources are constrained and maintaining capacity is an enormous challenge, it is important for agencies to collaborate in providing support for capacity. They also stressed the importance of awareness of issue specifics in each country.

“In looking at change process, what is key is having the right people in the right place,” said McLachlan. “Often those who make change happen have an entrepreneurial quality, are risk takers, and have a good sense for ‘making connections.’”

Recommendations were also made for joint World Bank/UNICEF missions, joint training, and more projects carried out jointly from the outset and designed as a learning exercise.

Using success in Thailand as an example, the experts also addressed the enormous challenge of bringing nutrition operations, which are generally small-scale and community-based, to full scale.

“In nutrition, so much of what we try to offer is building of community capacity,” said McLachlan. “For this to be sustainable, all levels of government need to be strengthened to stand in support of the process.”

“One of the strong messages that came through in the discussion of partnership is that they must always include country partners, so that the collaboration stands to support the country effort,” she added. “In any talk of partnerships, agencies must make sure that the country perspective drives the decisionmaking.”

Helpful links: For more on the World Bank’s work in nutrition, click here .

For more on UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, visit