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Role of communication and advocacy in scaling up nutrition: lessons and plans from the Zambian experience

Children attending CSO-SUN Global Day of ActionEneya Phiri, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Zambia Civila Society SUN Nutrition Alliance

Background

In the Republic of Zambia, children under five years of age have high levels of stunting (40%) and wasting (6%), and high levels of micronutrient malnutrition. Over the years, there has also been an increase in overweight/obesity, affecting an estimated 23% of women.

Zambia joined the SUN Movement in 2010 and the government is determined to address malnutrition from a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder perspective. The SUN framework in Zambia is designed so that the National Food and Nutrition Commission, the statutory body charged with responsibility to coordinate action on nutrition in Zambia under the Ministry of Health, is at the centre of efforts to scale up nutrition. This houses the SUN Focal Point (SUN FP). The SUN FP coordinates action across other SUN networks, including academia, UN and business and civil society networks. As a result, for the first time, the government, civil society, the private sector and cooperating partners are all collectively engaged in fighting malnutrition. This article provides an overview of the role of communication and advocacy contributions of the Civil Society SUN (CS-SUN) Alliance in Zambia.

Established in 2012, the CS-SUN Alliance is a movement of civil society organisations working together to raise the profile of nutrition on the national development agenda to increase coverage of effective and integrated nutrition programmes. This requires increased networking among key stakeholders across sectors, advocating for resource commitments to nutrition, and holding those in office to account. CS-SUN public awareness-raising work has had considerable success. For example, the CS-SUN successfully ran a campaign that culminated in the review of the National Food and Nutrition Act of 1967; has supported Zambian political parties to include nutrition messages in the presidential campaigns; conducts national budget analysis and tracking for nutrition sector spending since; and has trained the media on nutrition reporting.

The lessons learnt so far include learning to package messaging properly so that nutrition concepts are broken down into simple, meaningful language that can be widely understood. Quick follow-up action is required when awareness-raising activities take place because, when communities are made aware, they start to demand better nutrition programming. Learning to work with parliamentarians as a specific target group has also brought lessons on how to bring the needs of their constituents to their attention. Finally, lessons also include the realisation that, by belonging to a global network of nutrition actors, the SUN Movement makes for easy access to information to facilitate cross-learning. For example, Zambia has been paired with Malawi to benefit from regional learning.

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Eneya Phiri (2016). Role of communication and advocacy in scaling up nutrition: lessons and plans from the Zambian experience. Nutrition Exchange 6, May 2016. p33. www.ennonline.net/nex/6/communicationandadvocacy

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