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GNC Technical Alliance experience of providing technical support to ARDI, a national NGO in Somalia

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Natalie Sessions is a Senior Nutritionist at Emergency Nutrition Network (ENN)

Ben GS Allen is the Deputy Coordinator, Technical Support Team, Global Nutrition Cluster (GNC) Technical Alliance

Martha Nakakande is the Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) Advisor, Technical Support Team, GNC Technical Alliance

This article has been developed from a GNC Technical Alliance brief1 which explores how local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can receive technical support from the Technical Alliance and a related podcast2. The brief was prepared for the Alliance by ENN together with members of the Alliance’s Technical Support Team. We would like to extend special thanks to Abdi Moge Mohamed from ARDI for providing content based on his experience of receiving support from the Alliance.

Location: Somalia 

Key messages:

  • The GNC Technical Alliance has developed technical support packages to best meet the technical needs of local NGOs. One of the first of such support packages was provided to The African Relief Development Initiative in Somalia in relation to integrated management of acute malnutrition (IMAM) capacity strengthening.  
  • Key learnings from this experience include the importance of using technical experts based as locally as possible, the need to provide or link with organisational capacity strengthening, supporting the prioritisation of technical needs, and consider financial barriers.

Background

The African Relief Development Initiative (ARDI) is a non-governmental, non-profit, voluntary local organisation operating in Southern Somalia. Since 2018, with support from UNICEF, ARDI has implemented a range of ad hoc small-scale nutrition interventions including malnutrition screening, counselling on infant and young child feeding (IYCF), the promotion of safe water, hygiene and sanitation activities, health promotion, and the creation of mother-to-mother and father-to-father support groups.

In an internal report in early 2021, the ARDI team acknowledged the need to address the technical gaps in their nutrition team and conducted a capacity assessment. This assessment indicated needs across the nutrition in emergencies thematic areas (infant and young children feeding in emergencies (IYCF-E), nutrition assessment and surveillance, management of acute malnutrition, and social behaviour change (SBC)), as well as other operational areas (e.g., programme management, finance and monitoring). The assessment showed that only three out of the 29 staff had ever received integrated management of acute malnutrition (IMAM) training.

Given this, ARDI requested support from the Global Nutrition Cluster Technical Alliance (GNC Technical Alliance/the Alliance) to strengthen the technical capacity of its team, initially focusing on IMAM training. ARDI hoped that such training would not only enhance its ability to carry out nutrition interventions to a high standard of quality but also put the organisation in a better position to secure future funding and partnerships having received support from the Alliance. 

Technical support provision to ARDI

To meet this request for support, the Alliance’s CMAM Advisor developed a tailored remote training package in order to meet ARDI’s IMAM training needs and fill gaps in technical knowledge as identified through the IMAM capacity assessment and through a series of conversations with the ARDI Chief Executive Officer (CEO). From March to April 2021, the advisor offered online webinars and remote technical support, building on staff and volunteer’s previous technical knowledge and training. Several pre-existing trainings were identified (such as Agora’s Acute Malnutrition in Emergencies Preparedness and Response3 and Basic training on Nutrition in Emergencies4 and  MSF’s online course on  Basics of a Nutrition Programme5) and participants had to complete them as part of the training. Prior to the training, participants were requested to complete an Online Learning Readiness Questionnaire6 to assess their ability and availability to conduct self-study as part of the training. A pre- and post-test was conducted. The average score prior to training was 41% and increased to 76% following the training. Unfortunately, because the trainings had to be remote (due to travel limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic), there was no practical component, a typical part of IMAM trainings. The advisor had to employ creative mechanisms, such as a focus on case studies examples, the utilisation of group work, and discussions on the various challenges in implementation, to ensure that the theoretical learnings could be easily translated at a practical level.

Other challenges were also noted, particularly in terms of internet connectivity and access to computers for the ARDI team. This was mitigated through staff sharing and borrowing computers and training times shifting to when internet was more reliable. Another challenge noted was that of language barriers, with some staff members having limited understanding of English. This affected their ability to actively participate during webinars and share information when written materials were required. Fortunately, the advisor spoke Swahili, as did some members of the ADRI team and those within the team who had better English and Swahili skills were selected to support other members of the team with translation.

Despite these challenges, the training was deemed a success with ARDI’s CEO, Adbi Moge Mohamed, noting in a recent interview: ‘The support provided by the Alliance was beyond our expectations. The staff improved their skills and are now using the skills in the community. We’ve never had such support before.’ Following training, staff were able to train caregivers and other community members to screen and refer children for wasting treatment. As a result, the coverage of treatment increased in the areas that ARDI serves despite the impacts of COVID-19, which in other areas were leading to reported reductions in the numbers accessing treatment. It was reported that the Ministry of Health was appreciative of how the training had helped to increase coverage and that it had led to greater admissions of wasted children to health facilities and contributed to children being presented earlier, which positively impacted treatment outcomes. Through the support, Abdi Moge Mohamed was also able to establish broader links with the Global Nutrition Cluster (GNC) and participated in the GNC Annual Meeting 2021. This engagement facilitated networking opportunities for ARDI with numerous international NGOs and provided a platform to share ARDI’s experiences for others to learn from.      

The Alliance’s support to local NGOs

This was one of the first support packages offered by the Alliance to a local NGO and the need came at a timely moment when the Alliance was considering how it could better serve the localisation agenda7 and support NGOs working at national and subnational level. Some of the key principles the Alliance is now working towards in this regard include:

What is next for the Alliance in supporting local NGOs?

The Alliance is committed to working with local NGOs to meet their technical needs through a variety of approaches. The Alliance is constantly looking to improve this support. From the experience of working with ARDI, the Alliance has been reflecting on the importance of finding experts with the appropriate language skills and working closely with in-country experts. The Alliance is currently working on developing systems to allow it to tap into local resources (including consultants and the local offices of Technical Support Team partners) in an efficient manner. This is already happening in practice, for example Action Against Hunger Somalia is currently delivering support to another local NGO (Juba Valley Development Centre) on behalf of the Alliance on IMAM training. The Alliance is also looking to partner with other entities that focus on organisational capacity strengthening to complement the work that it does.

To find out more about the Alliance or to ask a question or request support directly, please click here: https://ta.nutritioncluster.net/request-support or email a member of the Alliance team at technicalalliance@nutritioncluster.net

Read more...

1 https://www.ennonline.net/gnctechnicalalliancelocalizationlearningpackage

2 https://www.ennonline.net/mediahub/podcast/thegnctechnicalalliancesupportdiscussion-somalia

3 https://agora.unicef.org/course/info.php?id=28662

4 https://agora.unicef.org/course/info.php?id=22555

5 https://tembo.msf.org/course/info.php?id=506

6 Online Learning Readiness Student Self-Assessment (psu.edu)

7 The localisation agenda is part of the Grand Bargain, a set of 51 commitments made by governments and humanitarian aid agencies at the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, which commits to “making principled humanitarian action as local as possible and as international as necessary.”

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Natalie Sessions, Ben GS Allen and Martha Nakakande (). GNC Technical Alliance experience of providing technical support to ARDI, a national NGO in Somalia. Field Exchange 67, April 2022. p43. www.ennonline.net/fex/67/gnctechncalalliancelocalisation

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