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- 07/27/17--19:23: World: Nutrition Exchange Issue 8 July 2017 [EN/AR]
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was established in 1949 to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees. In its 2013 mandate renewal of UNRWA, the General Assembly affirmed the importance of the provision of services for the wellbeing, protection and human development of the Palestine refugees and for the stability of the region, pending the just resolution of the question of the Palestine refugees (see Assembly resolution 68/76, para. 3).
The present evaluation assessed the relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of the promotion of a decent standard of living for Palestine refugees by UNRWA from 2010 to 2015, a period coinciding with the UNRWA medium-term strategy and the time since the previous OIOS evaluation. The human development goal of a decent standard of living was intended to unite the various departments and field offices around a shared vision for improving the lives of its target population. As UNRWA embarked on its 2016-2021 medium-term strategy, which envisions a similarly ambitious role for its protection focus, the evaluation was aimed at harnessing insights from the Agency’s previous experience to help it chart a better-informed course in the years ahead.
Since the previous OIOS evaluation, the external challenges affecting the effectiveness and efficiency of UNRWA have further intensified: a political solution to the conflict underlying Palestine refugees’ displacement seems even farther beyond reach; refugee numbers have grown rapidly while the resources have become less stable; and UNRWA human resources are no more flexible now than previously.
Despite these challenges, UNRWA has continued to provide services — both in respect of a decent standard of living and in its other main areas of intervention, such as health and education.
Evidence of the effectiveness of these services in improving lives has been elusive, however. Although UNRWA has made gains in its monitoring and evaluation function, these functions are still underemphasized as tools to help UNRWA learn and improve. In the present evaluation, household and intercept surveys were conducted to offer a glimpse of outcome-level results, but this effort does not substitute for ongoing UNRWA-led monitoring and evaluation of results.
At a fundamental strategic level, UNRWA was unsuccessful in making the human development goal of a decent standard of living a platform for uniting the Agency around a shared vision for improving the lives of Palestine refugees. First, UNRWA failed to specify how all corners of the Agency would work together towards the achievement of a decent standard of living. Second, intended reforms of the key programmatic areas responsible for the implementation of a decent standard of living were never fully realized, in contrast to other programmes. Finally, a monitoring and evaluation framework by which to assess achievement of the shared goal of a decent standard of living, including outcome-level results data, was lacking.
Many of these gaps were identified in the previous OIOS evaluation, as they represent broader organizational shortcomings that extend beyond a decent standard of living, but some recommendations were not heeded. As UNRWA pivots towards protection as a similarly ambitious goal in its 2016-2021 medium-term strategy, it risks similar challenges if it continues to ignore these gaps.
OIOS makes two important recommendations, both of which UNRWA has accepted, namely that UNRWA:
• Strengthen its accountability framework
• Identify the appropriate level of resources necessary to fully meet its 2016 - 2021 medium-term performance targets, and document and regularly communicate the effects of any funding gaps to the Advisory Commission of the Agency and other key stakeholders.
Welcome to this eighth issue of Nutrition Exchange (NEX), in which we have widened our geographical reach to include more readers and contributors from the Middle East and North Africa region. Iis is the first NEX issue to feature two articles from Lebanon. One looks at a community-based kitchen initiative (page 9), the other a school feeding programme (page 10). Both articles describe efforts to address the double burden of malnutrition (overweight/ obesity and undernutrition) among the Syrian refugee and vulnerable Lebanese populations.
Malnutrition in all its forms is evident in every country in the world (as confirmed by the 2016 Global Nutrition Report). According to WHO’s analysis, very few countries have yet been able to account for the rapid rise in overweight/ obesity and non-communicable diseases in their food and nutrition policies and plans. Ecuador may be an exception; the article in this issue reports that food labeling, a sugar tax on beverages and school-based initiatives to increase healthy eating and physical activity are being implemented (page 12). An interview with Nigeria’s Ministry of Budget and National Planning (page 28) provides important insights into the challenges of developing a national food and nutrition policy, particularly in securing the necessary budget lines in different ministries with a role in nutrition. Advocacy can play a crucial part in raising the profile of nutrition among parliamentarians and the media in order to influence national policies and budget allocations. An initiative in 12 countries in West Africa to scale up nutrition advocacy efforts through creating nutrition champions and civil society alliances is described in detail (page 24).
In countries where agriculture remains the primary economic activity (mainly in Africa and Asia), the focus is now on making agriculture more nutrition-sensitive; that is, seeking to maximise its contribution to nutrition. This issue contains articles on two such initiatives, in Ethiopia and Zambia. Both focus on building capacity, defined as the process by which individuals, organisations and societies strengthen their knowledge, skills and experience in order to achieve development objectives. The Ethiopia story (page 21) describes a project to identify capacity strengths and gaps in implementing the country’s nutrition-sensitive agriculture plan. In the Zambia article (page 19), the emphasis is on ‘singing the same song’ – developing key nutrition messages for agricultural extension workers. Building capacity is also the focus of an article from Kenya (page 26), where a nutrition capacity development framework is being streamlined to take account of the country’s devolved government structure and the need to support subnational level solutions for nutrition problems.
Many countries are implementing multi-sector nutrition programmes (MSNPs), which attempt to link together all the sectors – such as agriculture, education, health, water and sanitation and social protection – that can help address the immediate, underlying and basic causes of malnutrition. An article from Pakistan (page 17) describes a tool that uses existing data to identify the potential cost and nutritional impact of a range of interventions to ‘fill the nutrient gap’ across different sectors. In Nepal, the reality of carrying out multi-sector interventions is explored by two district officers charged with implementing an MSNP on the ground (page 15).
We would be delighted to feature many more of these ‘voices from the field’ – so please do share your stories and experiences of nutrition programming with us for the next issue of NEX, to be published in January 2018. Thank you to all our contributors and happy reading!
Carmel Dolan, Co-editor, NEX
Judith Hodge, Co-editor, NEX