- Namibia’s MSP has benefitted from high-level political leadership, with the former Prime Minister leading the platform. Due to a change in political leadership in Namibia however, there is a risk that duplicate MSPs will be created, with a lack of clarity for stakeholders as to which MSP they should work with.
- Namibia’s MSP is enshrined in law and chaired by an NGO with significant expertise in facilitating collaborations, making the prospects of sustainability good. A lack of dedicated staff and technical nutrition capacity limits the MSP’s function, however.
- Representation of stakeholders on the MSP is broad, but meetings are sporadic and momentum has been lost in recent years, along with limited resources.
Purpose of MSP
Malnutrition is recognised as a public challenge in Namibia, and partners working on aspects of nutrition accept that a combined effort is needed to get everyone together to work together to overcome it. In 2010 the current MSP, the Namibia Alliance for Improved Nutrition (NAFIN), was established in Namibia. After becoming aware of high levels of stunting within Namibia, the former Prime Minister, Honourable Nahas Angula, drove forward the creation of NAFIN to address this challenge, and still chairs the MSP despite a change in government meaning he has no current political mandate.
NAFIN has achieved several key milestones over the course of its existence. In 2011, the Honourable Angula invited all 13 regional governors to Windhoek to discuss nutrition, resulting in a ‘Declaration of Commitment’, in which the governors pledged to work towards scaling up nutrition. NAFIN advocated for the National Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (BMS), which was integrated to the Public and Environmental Health Act in 2015. In 2017, legislation on the fortification of maize and pearl millet (mahangu) was passed, on which NAFIN advised the government. These and other key projects have provided NAFIN with a clear set of purposes over the course of its existence. There is a suggestion that in the first few years of its existence, NAFIN ‘picked all the low hanging fruit’, meaning it focused on the nutrition challenges that were ‘easy’ to address. Progress in recent years has been slow compared to the first few years of NAFIN’s existence.
Before NAFIN was conceived, there was a Food Security and Nutrition Council (FSNC), which operated under the Office of the Prime Minister. It was formed in early 2000, then became dysfunctional. In 2017, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), under which NAFIN sits, appointed an Inter-Agency Steering Committee in 2017 to conduct inclusive discussions throughout NAFIN members and finalise the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy (FNSP) and revive the FNSC with technical support from UNICEF, given that NAFIN no longer has a political mandate with the passing out of office of the Honourable Angula in 2015, who nonetheless remains chairman of NAFIN. It is expected that the FSNC structure will once again be chaired by the Office of the Prime Minister.
It is currently unclear whether the FNSC will take over from NAFIN as the main MSP in Namibia, or if both structures will continue to exist, with NAFIN serving in a technical advisory capacity to FNSC. There is some concern that NAFIN may become redundant, but cannot be disbanded as it received its mandate through a government resolution. The FSNC will be accountable to the citizens of Namibia through its position within government, accountability that is not currently present in the NAFIN set up due to a lack of interaction with the Office of the Prime Minister.
While progress has been made by NAFIN, it could be argued that now the NAFIN chairman has no political mandate, momentum has been lost and future progress will be limited, particularly with regards to holding the relevant ministries to account. While the Honourable Nahas Angula has achieved a lot as nutrition champion within Namibia, there is no clear succession plan for the chair of NAFIN and national nutrition champion. A future champion would need to coordinate the relevant ministries, as well as gaining support from other NAFIN members, and improving advocacy efforts. The chair would also need to have influence with the FSNC, once it is reformed. Until there is clarity around NAFIN’s role and its future position with regards to the FSNC, it is hard to ascertain the required skills and networks of a future NAFIN chair.
NAFIN is set up as a deed of trust, establishing it in law. Currently, the Secretariat of NAFIN is Synergos, a global non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting collaboration. Small technical working groups within NAFIN have been formed to focus on addressing specific issues. The food security and nutrition technical committee and the food fortification working group are examples. There is also a mother and child health committee and the vulnerability assessment committee. NAFIN meetings are planned to be held four times a year. Minutes are taken and action points allocated. UNICEF, as the donor convenor, assist with organising these meetings. To date, NAFIN has operated at the national level, but has not yet engaged at the sub-national level. NAFIN has no full time staff, which might limit its capacity. A related challenge is that the Synergos staff (the Secretariat of NAFIN) are not nutritionists and therefore there are some misunderstandings between sectors.
Figure 1. Structure of the MSP
Members of NAFIN include relevant UN agencies (WHO, WFP, UNICEF, FAO); relevant Ministries (Office of the Prime Minister, Health and Social Services, Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Fisheries and Marine Resource, Education, Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Regional and local Government, Housing and Rural Development, National Planning Commission); Donors; civil societies and parastatals (including Namibia Agronomic Board, Millers groups, Pupkewitz Foundation, GAIN, Red Cross); and academia. On a membership level, there is a higher than average representation of women engaged with NAFIN. Although NAFIN members work well together, they all have their own areas of focus.
Although NAFIN meetings are planned to be held four times a year, in practice NAFIN meets around twice a year, sometimes at late notice. While all members still maintain a connection with NAFIN, some send junior representatives to these meetings, who do not have decision making powers, undermining the capacity of NAFIN to achieve progress. Not all members share the same passion for the NAFIN leadership’s vision of improving nutrition in Namibia, so there are varying levels of buy-in among committee members, and aside from the desire to improve nutrition, there are limited incentives to working across sectors. As all the stakeholders involved have allegiances to their organisations, this leaves NAFIN always taking second priority.
NAFIN’s current lack of structure has facilitated its ability to be nimble. However, a lack of transparency around NAFIN structure and activities has left members unclear on their accountability and responsibilities and whether there is any overlap in activities between members. In general, trust exists between NAFIN members, though the involvement of the private sector made some members from other sectors uneasy, particularly in the absence of full transparency and strong communication within the committee.
NAFIN’s financial situation is opaque. The government used to allocate 300,000 Namibian dollars to support NAFIN per year, but it is not clear if this funding continues. In general, there is not enough funding to fully facilitate the required nutrition programming in Namibia. As Namibia is classed as a middle to upper income country, it is difficult to secure funding from international donors. There is a suggestion that NAFIN’s success was linked to Namibia’s economic performance. Around the time NAFIN was established the economy was strong. It is now considerably weaker. The reviving of the FSNC may provide a good opportunity to redefine NAFIN’s structure, responsibilities and accounting procedures.