USAID beefs up focus on nutrition

A woman sifts parboiled paddy in Ghana. The U.S. Agency for International Development has unveiled plans to harmonize its funding and efforts surrounding nutrition. Photo by: Louis Stippel / USAID

The U.S. Agency for International Development has unveiled plans to harmonize its funding and efforts surrounding nutrition.

The agency is working on a comprehensive strategy that will make the issue a priority in “high-impact interventions” with nutrition as a component, such as in agriculture, health and humanitarian aid, Robert Clay, deputy assistant administrator at USAID’s Bureau for Global Health, announced Nov. 5 at an event hosted by the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network in Washington, D.C.

But the multisector strategy is only “internal” or agencywide, some agency officials told Devex on the sidelines of the event.  

This is part of a series of actions USAID has taken since U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-launched the 1,000 Days partnership at the U.N. summit on the Millennium Development Goals in 2010 to support the country-led Scaling Up Nutrition movement. Nutrition, especially of young children, has not only drawn more political support but funding as well.

In fiscal 2012, the Global Health Initiative included designated funds of $95 million for nutrition. But adding up the money for programs across various sectors that tackle it, including Feed the Future, the pot grew to $1.5 billion, Clay said.

USAID, agency officials told Devex, is working with InterAction and the 1,000 Days movement to craft the strategy. The process remains in the “very early” stages but the officials hope to come up with a draft in the coming months.

In addition, USAID is ramping up its capacity-building efforts to strengthen the implementation of Feed the Future, Clay said.

The so-called Nutrition Global Learning and Evidence Exchange will bring together USAID mission staff members to share best practices on implementing the program as well as discuss challenges in tackling nutrition issues and how to address them.

A workshop in December will target teams from Feed the Future priority countries in Africa, while a second one in February will focus on Asia and Latin America.

The plan is in line with the USAID reform agenda called USAID Forward, which accords priority to talent management. It also answers one of the major recommendations by civil society groups on how the United States can sustain its leadership on the global nutrition movement: through increasing nutrition capacity at headquarters and overseas offices.

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    Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.