29 April 2015

Why is UNICEF such a vital nutrition champion and could it do more?

Today, the UNICEF nutrition leads from their Eastern and Southern African Regional Offices (ESARO) invited me to make a video link presentation of the GNR at their regional meeting in Nairobi.

I was delighted to do so.  In the Q and A a number of questions came up about UNICEF's role.  What could it do more of?

Well, I've never been employed by UNICEF and I'm not an expert on it, but I am of course familiar with some of its work.

So my answers were:

1.  Continue to be strong champions.
At the global level we see this, for example, via UNICEF's strong advocacy and messaging, Tony Lake's leadership and activism, and UNICEF-Nutrition's ability to leverage resources (e.g. its critical role in the Power of Nutrition).

But there are three areas in which they do great work but I think can be even more ramped up:

2.  Be boundary champions.  UNICEF works in education, health, child protection, gender, water and sanitation etc. We need these sectors to become more animated about nutrition.  UNICEF with its fingers in many pies can help to link them up.

3. Be accountability champions.  UNICEF supports governments to collect a multitude of nutrition data via, for example, the Multiple Indicator Cluster surveys (MICs).  These are incredibly valuable.  How could they do more?  Innovate with community scorecards for improving nutrition service delivery.  Experiment with mobile operators to improve knowledge about nutrition practices.  Evaluate rigorously. Share learning.

4. Be story champions.  Stories about nutrition improvements are too often sliced and diced.  This intervention, that policy, this investor.  But in truth we need to see the wider angle view.  Which things come together to accelerate nutrition? Which things come together to generate the perfect storm to hold it back?  UNICEF is in a unique position to tell such stories--again, it must be rigorously done--because it works across sectors and from the community to policy and back. These stories help everyone better understand progress, learn from it and by inspired by it.

UNICEF, thank you for the great work, now can you take it to the next level?  I think you can--and I hope you will.


Unknown said...

Lawrence, your comments are welcome indeed. I have been associated with Unicef for long. I appreciate the great work they do. But one thing I feel desrves attention: They have a fast entry and even faster exit while introducing programs. One example is BFHI - got started in 1998,then stalled, then reinvigorated in 2003 temporarily and now I never hear about it! They should hold the torch longer,to reap the harvest,in your own words! Raj

Stacia Nordin said...

I've seen UNICEF be champions for, and even more, taking over country's systems for a portion of nutrition - treatment and humanitarian assistance for mothers and children. But they could do much more, and are starting to, on supporting nations to fix their own problems so the symptoms don't need to be assisted or treated any more. They do too much 'saving' and 'doing for the system' instead of sustainable development. That goes for most UN, donor and NGOs I've interacted with - which are many, many, many in Malawi.

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