Tag Archives: Nutrition

Camila Urbina Escobar, Stopping Malnutrition with World Food Programme in Timor-Leste

Map of Timor-Leste & location on the globe

Map of Timor-Leste & location on the globe

Camila Urbina is a joint MPA/MAIR student who secured her internship at WFP by writing directly to country offices and looking outside well known locations. For her Fall 2016 Semester, she plans to study at Sciences Po in Paris through one of SU’s World Partner Programs.

Amongst the amazing opportunities the Maxwell School has provided me during my joint degree, this summer was certainly the most life-changing. I could have never imagined the incredible professional and personal experiences and growth that awaited me while working for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Timor-Leste.

Timor-Leste is one of the newest countries in the world, the proud and resilient Timorese gained their independence from Indonesia after a terrifying war only 16 years ago. With one million inhabitants and a young government, Timor is navigating post-conflict, much like my native Colombia, with the help of the UN.

The country has the world’s worst stunting in the world and some of the worst malnutrition numbers in Asia; this is why the World Food Programme is supporting the Timorese Ministry of Heath to conduct a mother and child nutrition programme. The programme provides nutrition screenings, education and supplementary foods for pregnant and lactating mothers and malnourished children under two years old in 6 of the most critically malnourish municipalities in the island nation. WFP is also providing technical assistance and capacity building to the Timorese so that they may eventually take full control of the program.

My three months were divided into working in the main office in the capital Dili, supporting the monitoring and evaluation department, and working in the field, providing food and nutrition education for the country’s most remote and malnourished communities in the mountains of enclave province of Oecusse.

The WFP country office in Timor is aiming at creating a social accountability mechanism to include in their nutrition program. During my time in Dili, I was tasked with creating a benchmark of the mechanisms and strategies used by those other UN agencies and NGOs in Timor to get feedback from communities and help put together a proposal to create the country office’s own social accountability system. Furthermore I was in charge of creating a gender action plan for the office, based on the guidelines provided by WFP headquarters in Rome, in order to help materialize WFP’s commitment to women empowerment and gender balance in all aspect of their work. I also supported various communication needs, writing stories, interviews and particularly covering the work in the field during international Breastfeeding week.

It was a profoundly enriching experience to be a part of the country’s learning process in matters of nutrition and social resilience and to experience not only the challenge of working with government in a different culture but more importantly the joy of serving in the remote and beautiful villages. This summer was an incredible experience, serving the resilient and loving Timorese and living amongst the wild and the unbridled beauty of their island-home has provided me with new perspectives on humanitarian work and given me the opportunity to practice all the theory provided by the Maxwell School to the benefit of the most vulnerable.

Camila Urbina in Maquelab, Timor-Leste screening a child for malnutrition on June 22, 2016

Camila Urbina in Maquelab, Timor-Leste screening a child for malnutrition on June 22, 2016

Camila Urbina celebrating Breastfeeding Week with mothers in Oecilo, Timor-Leste on August 3, 2016

Camila Urbina celebrating Breastfeeding Week with mothers in Oecilo, Timor-Leste on August 3, 2016

Camila Urbina in a nutrition screening with the community in Oecusse, Timor Leste on June 22 2016

Camila Urbina in a nutrition screening with the community in Oecusse, Timor Leste on June 22 2016

Emily Fredenberg, UN Network for Scaling Up Nutrition Secretariat in Rome

Emily Fredenberg is a dual-degree MPA & MAIR student. She interned with the United Nations Development Programme, within their Health and Development Unit in Geneva, Switzerland during the summer. She came back to Syracuse to continue her studies after finishing her internship with  the United Nations Network for Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat.

Emily Fredenberg (left) with fellow intern at the WFP Headquarters in Rome, Italy

Emily Fredenberg (left) with fellow intern at the WFP Headquarters in Rome, Italy

This autumn, I had the opportunity to intern with the United Nations Network for Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat, hosted by the headquarters of the UN World Food Programme in Rome, Italy.  As an intern, my function was to support the global-level work of the UN Network for SUN Secretariat, in its coordination and facilitation functions amongst the main UN agencies principally working on nutrition.

Overview of the Roles of the SUN Movement, the UN Network for SUN, & REACH within the Global Nutrition Landscape: The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement is a global initiative, aiming to spur political action and investment among both national government leaders as well as development partners, to improve maternal and child nutrition.  SUN focuses on investing targeted action for the first 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday. Poor nutrition during this period can result in irreversible consequences for a child, such as stunted growth or impaired cognitive development.  Therefore this short window of time can have life-changing impacts on a child’s health throughout the entire life-cycle as well as their ability to break the cycle of poverty for their families and communities.

SUN is a country-led movement (currently present in 55 participating countries), bringing various stakeholders together, across the different SUN Networks which include government, civil society, UN, and the private sector, to support national efforts to scale up nutrition.  This multi-stakeholder approach fosters greater coordination and access to technical and financial resources which are necessary to galvanize nutrition action.  The SUN Movement focuses on encouraging the implementation of key nutrition-interventions (such as the promotion of breast-feeding), as well as the integration of nutrition into the broader policy efforts of relevant government sectors such as health, agriculture, education, social protection, sanitation, and women’s empowerment.

At the national level, there is frequently a lack of coordination and capacity to develop a multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach. Hence, nutrition activities can remain fragmented and uncoordinated, and result in duplicative efforts with limited impact. In order to facilitate coordination, the work of the SUN Movement is synchronized amongst the various SUN Networks, including the work of the UN Network for SUN.  The UN Network was endorsed in June 2013 by five UN Agencies principally working in nutrition related issues (FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO). The Network serves to: harmonize and coordinate UN activities in support of country nutrition efforts, and to align UN nutrition efforts with those of national governments, other SUN Networks and nutrition stakeholders at global and country levels.

Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger and Undernutrition (REACH) is an essential component of the UN Network for SUN, and provides participating governments with impartial coordinateon and analytical support to simplify administrative mechanisms. It further allows UN Network agencies to focus their efforts on the technical aspects of nutrition.  REACH’s neutral facilitation takes the shape of a national and international nutrition facilitator, which work directly with the national government to foster greater country-led stakeholder engagement, with the aim of progressing the level of national commitment for nutrition efforts.  Currently, REACH facilitation is present within 17 SUN countries.

UN Network for SUN/REACH Secretariat Internship Roles:  As the UN Network for SUN Secretariat works to coordinate the efforts amongst the participating UN agencies, the Secretariat also facilitated an interagency workshop on the UN’s approach to Capacity Development Assessments the first week of November.  Currently, most UN Network agencies conduct their own assessments, and this workshop was designed to harmonize these assessments as a collaborative UN Network for SUN approach to capacity building efforts.

As my principal internship project, I worked to facilitate a colleague from FAO to firstly conduct a pre-workshop analysis, by 1) mapping the existing UN assessment tools, 2) drafting a capacity development framework based upon the various UN assessment methodologies, and 3) conducting a country case study analysis of previous assessments conducted to get a better sense of how these assessments could be improved to better leverage country level capacity.  Through workshop discussions, we were able to finalize the draft framework, and also agreed to create a harmonized guidance package for countries interested in conducting assessments.  I additionally assisted in this development process, though the final guidance package will not be complete until this coming spring 2016.

Overall, my internship with the UN Network for SUN Secretariat certainly allowed me to get a fuller understanding of the intricacies of the UN system, particularly with regards to inter-UN agency collaboration efforts specific to nutrition. It also helped to further develop my research, writing, and strategic planning skills.  All in all, I had an amazing semester with the Secretariat in Rome.  Rome truly is a great city, and I’m quite grateful for the experience I was able to have there.