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Re: Social protection to protect and promote nutrition

Nyasha Tirivayi facilitator of the discussion, FAO, Italy

Dear all

I would like to thank the contributors to the discussion last week. The discussion covered a lot of interesting issues. Some of the key points raised were as follows:

·         That social protection measures need to have clear goals and objectives

·         Social protection schemes should explicitly aim to improve nutrition rather than just raise food intake. Increased food intake does not guarantee the elimination of malnutrition.

·         The design of social protection measures should consider the influence of contextual factors such as access to clean water, sanitation, hygiene, maternal knowledge, which all affect nutrition. An example  was given of the Integrated Child Development Services in India which to date has not met its goals possibly due to these factors.

·         That developing countries should consider moving away from external aid and place emphasis on designing home grown, community/locally driven social protection measures to combat undernutrition. Examples given include strengthening informal institutions such as informal protection mechanisms e.g. private transfers between households, remittances, etc.


As we continue with the discussion, I would like to ask you to think further on one of our main questions:

What are the main issues for policy-makers to consider in the design, formulation and implementation of nutrition-enhancing social protection measures?

-          Studies have shown that the first 1000days of life are a crucial window for preventing irreversible undernutrition like stunting. Yet other research rebuts this position by showing that catch-up growth is still possible even after the first 1000 days of life. From your experiences, who should we target when implementing nutrition enhancing social protection measures? Under 3 years? Over 3 years?

-          Should we only always give cash or food transfers to women?

-          Should we only always target the poorest? Rural households? Or should we consider universal social protection schemes?

-          Recent research shows that stunting has far reaching consequences even affecting income earning capacities in adulthood and on a national scale  leading to two –three percent losses in GDP (Bhutta, Sachdev et al. 2008). In that case, should we prioritize eliminating stunting over wasting or underweight? Or we should not prioritize one over the other?

-          What are some of the lessons you have learned, best practices concerning social protection measures implemented to enhance food security and nutrition? E,g cash transfers, food transfers, school feeding, vouchers etc..