Somaliland SUN takes on the “Fill The Nutrient Gap” Approach18 April, 2019
Somaliland SUN takes on the “Fill The Nutrient Gap” Approach
Written and Edited by Amaal Dama, SLCSN-SUN Secretary
The Somaliland SUN Champion Office have taken the initiative to implement the Fill the Nutrient Gap (FNG) analysis as a part of the Somaliland SUN movement. Following multiple discussions on this activity at successive SUN Task Force meetings, Zakaria Dahir the Focal Point of the Somaliland SUN Movement, arranged a long-awaited inception multi-stakeholder FNG workshop on the 11th April 2019. Participants of whom attended the workshop included WFP Headquarters from Rome, Italy, WFP Nairobi Office and WFP Hargeisa Office, key delegates of line ministries, academics and most SLCSN-SUN members.
The SDG goal#2 sets forth the challenge to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030. Meeting nutrient requirements is a pre-requisite for the prevention of malnutrition. However, the availability and affordability of an adequate nutritious diet is not often reflected in typical nutrition situational analyses.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), with technical input from key research institutes (University of California Davis, the International Food Policy Research Institute [IFPRI], Epicentre, Harvard University and Mahidol University) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), developed a framework for strengthened nutrition situation analysis and decision-making, now called “Fill the Nutrient Gap” (FNG), which aims to support identification of strategies for improving nutrition with an emphasis on increasing access to nutrients, especially during the critical period of the first 1,000 days. This tool focuses primarily on the dietary intake side of the malnutrition conceptual framework displayed below:
Value of the FNG include supporting the national strategies around the barriers to adequate nutrient intake, conducting the FNG increases the understanding the nutrient access and affordability among stakeholders from different sectors. FNG focuses primarily on nutrient access and intake, prioritizing the food system. It is complementary to a broader situational analysis on health, caring practices and WASH.
The FNG tool primarily uses secondary data in combination with the results from linear programming tools such as Cost of the Diet (CotD) and Optifood; to better understand the barriers to adequate nutrient intake in the context and model potential interventions to improve access to nutrients, in particular from nutritious foods. The framework for analysis helps to consolidate and analyse existing secondary data at country level based on the following categories:
- Malnutrition Characteristics – review prevalence data of malnutrition characteristics (stunting, wasting, anaemia, underweight, overweight) and if possible data on certain micronutrient deficiencies. If relevant, seasonal patterns of various nutritional problems within populations can be considered. Malnutrition characteristics are reviewed in the initial stage to define priority groups for the analysis
- Enabling Policy Environment – analyse if the policy environment adequately facilitates access and availability of nutritious foods for the population and to identifying possible gaps in national policy, and legal or regulatory frameworksand their enforcement. Enforcement of these policies and regulations is a key part of the analysis; for example, while there may be a mandatory national fortification policy, compliance of this policy may be low in reality. This section is crucial in identifying current or potential entry points for nutrition intervention
- Availability of nutritious foods in the local market – review information on local availability of nutritious foods (natural and fortified) as well as on local production and processing capacity to assess whether it would be possible to meet nutrient needs from locally available foods.
- Access to Nutritious Foods – determine if the target populations have access to nutritious foods in both lean and non-lean seasons, in urban vs rural areas etc. Also gain a better understanding of the adequacy of nutrient intake at the household level and the ability of households to cope with potential shocks.
- Nutrient Intake – examine gaps in nutrient intake at the individual/target group level, in particular related to infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices and the coverage of supplementation and/or fortification programmes. Each age group will have different nutrient requirements (e.g. a 6-11 month old child will require a diet with much greater nutrient density in iron and zinc per 100 kcal than an adult male).
- Local Practices – identify socioeconomic and cultural factors influencing food purchasing patterns and feeding practices that currently act as a barrier to adequate nutrient intake or could in the future limit the effectiveness of certain food-based interventions,
particularly among target groups of interest. Information gathered with tools such as ProPAN can be very useful to gain insights into local preferences and behaviours, which can inform strategies such as social and behaviour change communication (SBCC) to improve feeding practices. Focus ethnographic studies or focus group discussions carried out by local academia or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can provide key insights into this often overlooked area of analysis.
- Cost Optimization – utilising linear programming tools, such as Optifood and CotD, the minimum cost of a locally available nutritious diet can be estimated. An insight can also be gained into what proportion of the population can afford this diet in different geographic
areas or among social safety net beneficiaries compared to non-beneficiaries. Tools such as CotD can also be used to model possible intervention options that might improve affordability, such as introduction of fortified foods and/or specialised nutritious foods (SNFs) through market channels or social protection programmes, and cash transfers.
Somaliland has been a member of the Movement since 2017 and has since made great strides in bringing people together around the common goal of ending malnutrition. Donors, UN and Civil Society alliance rally behind national nutrition policies. The SUN Civil Society Network will be active during the FNG analysis also at the provincial level . The SUN secretariat, through their positions within national and provincial government departments, will play a critical leadership role in the coordination of FNG events and success in terms of representation from multiple sectors and stakeholders