Series Summary: Nutrition and Social Protection
The World Bank and other development stakeholders have well described the theoretical foundation for nutrition-sensitive social protection interventions. Evidence demonstrates that strategic deployment of key levers can maximize impact on nutrition outcomes, which is a crucial factor for improving long-term child development. That is, by maximizing returns for nutrition, social protection interventions can in turn maximize returns on the reduction of poverty and inequality. Globally, while nutrition remains hugely underfunded, investment in social protection systems in low and middle income countries is in the billions and expanding. Governments and their partners are also increasingly implementing nutrition-sensitive social protection programs, with promising examples in all regions of the world.
A Focus on Improving Programs
While the linkages between nutrition and social protection now seem obvious and the historical record is full of successful examples, too often the impact on nutrition outcomes delivered by at-scale nutrition-sensitive social protection interventions is disappointing. Such mixed results underscore that “doing” nutrition-sensitive social protection is not at all straightforward; context matters, as do minute design decisions, coherent implementation arrangements, and incorporation of appropriate nutrition indicators. During the process of operationalization, the “soft” stuff that matters for nutrition sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of simply putting in place a social protection system. Even programs well-conceived at the start can wind up underperforming in terms of their nutrition results due to expedient decisions made on the ground. For this reason, it is best practice to include a nutritionist on the team who is responsible for maintaining fidelity to nutrition principles, and empowered to ensure that project-level objectives to improve child growth and development are translated into what is ultimately implemented.
Current Challenges and Key Topics
As evidenced by the recent Global Forum, there are many countries, donors, and NGOs involved in the design and implementation of nutrition-sensitive social protection programs around the world. Although each program is uniquely designed to address a specific context, many of the obstacles they face are universal. Programs are struggling with similar issues but practitioners rarely have the opportunity to come together as a community to share challenges, trade-offs, and solutions.
The purpose of this SecureNutrition blog series is to provide a view from the trenches of at-scale nutrition-sensitive social protection programming and to explore discrete facets of the design and operationalization processes that affect the magnitude of impact on nutrition outcomes. We will tackle topics such as:
- What are the key contextual characteristics that must be taken into consideration in the design of nutrition-sensitive social protection programs? What context-specific design elements can be employed to positive affect?
- Which sector or actor has responsibility for what?
- What are the qualities of effective nutrition intervention that, at minimum, must be maintained so that potential impact on nutrition is not compromised in the transition from design to implementation?
- And, what obstacles arise and what trade-offs must be weighed?
The intention is not to deliver guidance per se, but rather to share experiences as they unfold and make the ongoing dialogue more explicit, therein contributing to global efforts to carry out more effective nutrition-sensitive programming.
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 World Bank. (2013). Improving Nutrition Through Multisectoral Approaches. Washington, DC: World Bank.
 Alderman, Harold. (2016). “Leveraging Social Protection Programs for Improved Nutrition: Summary of Evidence Prepared for the Global Forum on Nutrition- Sensitive Social Protection Programs, 2015.” World Bank, Washington, DC.
 Spray, Andrea. (Ed.) (2016). "Leveraging Social Protection Programs for Improved Nutrition: Compendium of Case Studies Prepared for the Global Forum on Nutrition-Sensitive Social Protection Programs, 2015." World Bank, Washington DC.
 Spray, Andrea. (2016). "Report on the Proceedings of the Global Forum on Nutrition-Sensitive Social Protection Programs, 2015." World Bank, Washington, DC