To speed up progress toward ending malnutrition, informed decision making is critical. Ethiopia has taken an important step to improve evidence-based decision making for nutrition by launching the National Information Platform for Nutrition (NIPN) on May 31th, 2018. The platform was officially initiated by Ato Birara, the head of the Nutrition Case Team and representative of the State Minister of Health, and received the strong support of Dr. Tsigereda Kifle Deputy Director of EPHI as well as the full audience.
The National Information Platform or NIPN is hosted by the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI), and involves all sectors which have committed to contribute towards reaching the target set by the National Nutrition Program (NNP): reducing stunting from 40% in 2011 to 26% in 2020. While progress has been remarkable over the last decade, specifically with a reduction of stunting rates from 58% in 2001 to 38% in 2016, more efforts are needed to reach the targets set by the national program.
Evidence-based decision making is one of the key pillars of the NNP, and by establishing the NIPN, Ethiopia has expressed again its commitment to accelerate progress toward ending malnutrition. This commitment was also appreciated during the launch by the Head of Cooperation of the European Union in Ethiopia, Erik Habers, who echoed that NIPN fits well with the objectives of the NNP.
The NIPN aims to provide decision makers in Ethiopia with improved evidence related to the drivers of malnutrition and the progress of the national nutrition program. The operational modalities of the NIPN were well explained by Solomon Eshetu, Interim Director of the Food and Nutrition Research Directorate of the EPHI: “To achieve its goal, the NIPN will work with all the sectors to maximize the use of existing information and data, which will further be analyzed in order to get a better understanding of the factors that influence malnutrition. Doing so will allow NIPN to build plausible arguments about the effectiveness of interventions, programs, approaches and investments to prevent malnutrition and will contribute to monitoring progress in preventing malnutrition. In addition, NIPN will strengthen accountability of nutrition stakeholders to meet their commitments, and will identify gaps in information that need to be filled as well as problems with the consistency and quality of data.” IFPRI, which has a longstanding engagement with Ethiopia, will provide technical support to NIPN under its Compact2025 initiative.
Co-organized by EPHI and Compact 2025, the NIPN launch event gathered around 75 key stakeholders from various sectors supporting the NNP. The event focused on informing the audience about the role which NIPN will play to support the NNP and included rich discussions among participants. In addition to the official launch, the event also featured a technical session, which focused on the challenges and opportunities for evidence-based decision making for nutrition. These topics were explored by Mr. Tesfaye Hailu, NIPN assistant project coordinator at EPHI. Dr. Awoke Misganaw, Clinical Assistant Professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, followed Mr. Hailu discussing the National Data Management Center for Health in EPHI and how this will connect with NIPN. Anne Bossuyt of IFPRI then presented on the priorities which the NIPN will address over the next months.
Envisaged for a duration of four years, the project is funded by the European Commission with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom. Ethiopia will benefit from global linkages as a part of the NIPN initiative, including at least the eight other countries that will implement a nutrition information platform: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Guatemala, Kenya, Laos, Niger, Uganda and Zambia. A Global NIPN Support Facility will coordinate the initiative within and between these countries, support countries to design and establish each NIPN, build capacity and provide technical assistance, and link with the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement and other initiatives to ensure coherence.
Dr. Teunis van Rheenen, Head of Partnerships and Business Development at IFPRI emphasized that IFPRI and Compact2025 will support the NIPN initiative in Ethiopia. “We are very excited to partner with EPHI and the EC to support the successful implementation of NIPN in Ethiopia. Through Compact2025, IFPRI will work hand-in-hand with EPHI to strengthen capacities to manage and maintain a National Information Platform for Nutrition and enhance critical linkages between research and policy. IFPRI will build on its strong partnerships with national programs and institutes to provide technical support to EPHI and needed evidence for improving nutrition in Ethiopia. In addition, IFPRI has assigned an expert who will work in closely with EPHI to support the delivery of the expected NIPN results. NIPN offers an excellent opportunity to boost multi-sectoral involvement to address malnutrition and IFPRI is very proud to support this initiative.”