Making policies nutrition sensitive in Zambia

28th May 2015
Mr. Eneyah Botoman Phiri who is the advocacy and communications Officer at the Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance (CSO-SUN) in Zambia writes for Eldis on how CSO-SUN are working with government and other stakeholders to make policies nutrition sensitive in Zambia.

Malnutrition in Zambia
Malnutrition continues to be a major public health concern in Zambia, with high rates of stunting (40%) and wasting (6%) alongside high levels of obesity (23%), particularly in women. Micronutrient deficiencies were also reported to be high with 53% of school-aged children being deficient in vitamin A and 46% suffering from iron deficiency anemia (Demographic Health Survey, 2014).

Zambia malnutrition


Source: Zambia Demographic Health Survey (2013/14)

Government efforts to tackle undernutrition

Zambia joined the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN) which has adopted a multi-sectorial approach to improving nutrition outcomes globally. As a result of this, the country developed, among others, a comprehensive National Food and Nutrition strategic plan that is cross cutting over various sectors. The strategic plan combines action across five key line ministries including the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives; Ministry of Community Development, Mother, and Child Health; Ministry of Education and Ministry of Local Government.

The Zambian government has taken strides in the recent past to develop a policy and legal framework that supports nutrition development in the country. This has been evident in the development of the first ever social protection policy and the attempts to maximize the impact of the agriculture and food system on nutrition outcomes through the revision of the National Agriculture Policy (NAP). The Government has also made efforts to review and repeal the National Food and Nutrition Commission Act of 1965.

CSO-SUN Alliance: leading the way on nutrition advocacy in Zambia

The Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance (CSO-SUN) has been advocating for a policy and legal environment that promotes improved nutrition outcomes in Zambia. The Alliance is a movement of civil society organisations working to scale up the profile of nutrition on the national development agenda. One way in which it intends to achieve this is by channeling the comparative advantages of various member organisations and stakeholders to adequately influence policy in the country in order to address the nutrition needs of the most vulnerable in society.

At the centre of its advocacy agenda, the CSO-SUN Alliance has developed “The 10 key recommendations to addressing under-nutrition in Zambia” or simply “10 key Asks”. These are a set of recommendations that were developed consultatively with civil society, the cooperating partners and the government. The key asks are a multi-disciplinary effort to identify key areas for action across sectors that are required to effectively address the nutrition situation in Zambia. They encompass practical recommendations from coordination issues to staffing needs and funding gaps.

The Ten critical steps to address Child Under-nutrition in Zambia are:

1. Build political will to tackle under-nutrition;
2. Ensure effective high-level national coordination;
3. Increase spending to address the nutrition crisis;
4. Address the serious gaps to ensure adequate human resources at all levels;
5. Create transparent financial mechanisms to protect nutrition funding;
6. Reform existing programmes to increase their effect on nutrition;
7. Provide clear public data and information on emerging evidence and strategy;
8. Ensure effective decentralized coordination at Provincial and District Level;
9. Provide financial incentives to engage the private sector to tackle under nutrition; and
10. Engage Civil Society as a partner in the fight against under-nutrition,

Source: 10 Critical Steps to address Child Under-nutrition in Zambia, permanently.

CSO-SUN’s recommendations towards making the agriculture sector more nutrition sensitive

CSO-SUN recognises that in order to reduce malnutrition rates in Zambia, there is a need for policy priorities in the agriculture sector to include explicit nutrition objectives. In light of this, the Alliance convened its members and other stakeholders to make recommendations to the draft NAP that the government is in the process of reviewing. The Alliance recognised that the NAP, in its current state, does not adequately address the nutritional needs of the Zambian people. It could benefit from key recommendations that lead to a developed agriculture sector which can improve nutrition and health outcomes in two ways:
  • Directly, for example, through the production and consumption by small-scale farmers of an energy sufficient and nutritionally diverse diet.
  • Indirectly, for example through changing the price of foods through increased market supply, or through enhanced household and national income by means of increased agricultural productivity.
The complete recommendations made to the Ministry can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/1AfAYCf.

The CSO-SUN Alliance met with the Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary (far left in the image below) and the ministry’s Policy and Planning department to amplify and consolidate the recommendations made to the draft NAP. This interaction fosters strong partnerships with strategic partners and gives credence to further input in policy from civil society.

Conclusion

The CSO-SUN Alliance’s nutrition advocacy agenda has been focused on supporting the reform of existing programmes to increase their effect on nutrition. This is why, in 2014, we focused mainly on the impact that the social protection policy and the agriculture policy have on the lives of the Zambian people. As an Alliance, we believe that the right policies coupled with strong implementation plans executed would have tangible impact on the growth and development of a healthy nation.