Will Peru sustain progress on child malnutrition?
While global progress on child malnutrition has lagged, good national policies have helped Peru accelerate reductions.
The challenge now is to make sure that newly-elected officials continue to support successful policies.
This is the message presented in Analysing Success in the Fight against Malnutrition in Peru, a new report by IDS Research Fellow Andrés Mejía Acosta.
Good policies, not just economic growth, can support better nutrition
Progress has been slow on the Millennium Development Goals target to reduce child malnutrition. From 1990 to 2008, malnutrition levels did not improve in 28 countries, and deteriorated in 24 countries. Peru also saw slow progress, with rates falling only 3 percentage points from 1995 to 2005.
Between 2005 and 2010, however, Peru was able to accelerated improvements, and saw an overall decline in malnutrition by 5 percentage points. In rural areas, where malnutrition rates are highest, they fell by nearly 10 percentage points.
This progress did not result from Peru’s growing economy alone, the report argues. Instead, improvement stemmed from government support for a national poverty reduction strategy and a conditional cash transfer programme, supported by donor prompting.
The report attributes this success to three factors:
- Working in coalitions, government agencies cooperated with one another and with non-government organisations.
- National, regional and municipal levels of government coordinated their support.
- Results-based budgeting helped to ensure funds were used in a transparent way.
International cooperation agencies also played a critical role. Donors formed the Children’s Nutrition Initiative (CNI) in 2006. CNI provided technical advice, seed funding and logistical support to government efforts to tackle child malnutrition.
Sustaining political support for nutrition programmes
The challenge now is to maintain political support for successful nutrition policies.
Fewer than 23 percent of incumbent legislators won re-election in Peru’s general elections in April 2011. The success of nutrition programmes has apparently not helped officials to win re-election.
Newly elected officials may have little incentive to invest themselves in programmes developed by their predecessors.
Mejía Acosta’s report tracks efforts by the CNI coalition to lobby politicians from different parties to endorse the national malnutrition strategy. The report recommends steps for sustaining health programmes across elections, including:
- Coalitions such as CNI should build their influence with the National Congress, for example offering training on malnutrition to legislators
- Coalitions should continue to demand, monitor, and influence the work of politicians and officials, for example, by sponsoring citizens watchdog groups
- Government and non-government agencies should retain and promote technical staff in to prevent loss of expertise
- The Ministry of Finance should decentralise funds to local and regional governments
Building on this work in Peru, the team is investigating how malnutrition has been successfully tackled in other countries. Research is ongoing in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India and Zambia.
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