Kat Pittore measuring stunted children in India

RESULTS’ Nutrition Advocacy Officer, Kat Pittore, looks at how to transform June 8th pledges into outcomes for children.

On June 8th 90 organisation, companies, and governments attended the Nutrition for Growth event and made significant commitments to ending undernutrition, either by pledging money, human resources, or promising to reach certain nutrition outcomes by a specific date. In some ways, the pledging was the easiest part, anyone can say that they will do something, the hard part is to actually make these changes happen.

The headline figure from the nutrition for Growth event was that we will prevent at least 20 million children from becoming stunted and save at least 1.7 million lives by 2020. The real question is, how do we make this figure become a reality? We need to make sure that the money that was pledged is programmed in an effective way, that the payments are made regularly and reliably, that money is going to the right people, and that we are achieving the desired outcomes. If this does not happen, who is responsible for holding the government, organisations, or businesses to account? This blog does not seek to answer this question, but rather to raise some of the issues that need to be resolved in order to develop an effective method to ensure that nutrition outcomes are achieved.

What do countries need to be accountable for?

One of the major questions that is being debated is what the accountability mechanism will include. One June 8th, 90 organizations and 24 governments made pledges to ending undernutrition.  However, there are many countries with a significant burden of undernutrition, such as India that were not at the table. Should they be excluded from the accountability framework? Is the goal of this framework to make sure that commitments from June 8th are upheld or should it be something much larger, looking at all countries and their commitments to nutrition?  Is this something that is necessary or too ambitious? Will it be difficult to hold countries to account if they did not make a pledge?

Who will hold the accountability mechanism?

One of the key non-financial commitments to come out of June 8th was a promise to have an annual Global Report on nutrition that will include nutrition plans, resource spending, and progress updates. This is an amazing start, but more is needed. One proposal is to create an independent expert panel, similar to what has been developed for the Every Woman, Every Child campaign.  The Scaling Up Nutrition movement (SUN, which has been working with countries to develop reasonable costed plans, provides another potential home for an accountability mechanism.

How will data be gathered in a timely and effective way?

It is easy to say that your will reduce stunting by x% by 2020, but much harder to make it happen and to measure. Currently, most of the nationally representative data we have (which shows rates of stunting for a whole country) come from what are known as demographic and health surveys (DHS), which only happen every 5-10 years, take over a year to complete and are very expensive to organise and run. One of the major challenges in accountability is actually gathering data in the field to see how well countries are doing in reduce stunting. We need a system that gathers accurate data, in a timely fashion and can be used to evaluate countries progress, we cannot afford to wait 5-10 years for the next demographic and health survey.

The road to Rio

The Brazilian government has offered to host a nutrition event during the next Olympics, 1000 days after the initial summit, a key time to take stock of what is going well, what has not and how to move forward. It is critical that we have a well developed accountability mechanism developed to make sure we can see clear progress towards our goals. Undernutrition can only be ended through continued high level political will, quality nutrition programming and the financial resources to make that happen. Ensuring good quality monitoring and evaluation is in place is key to allowing this to happen.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of RESULTS.