By Hawa Amara
A two-day joint planning meeting of the Civil Society Platforms on Scale-Up Nutrition (SUN) and Immunization was held at the Grassroots Gender Empowerment and Movement hall on John Street in Freetown from 26th– 27th June.
Organized by Focus 1000, the forum was to update partners on progress, facilitate the sharing of experiences and exchange of ideas from the various districts, initiate a CSO mapping exercise and plan the way forward.
The aim of the training was to organize civil society into a united force that speaks with one voice and engages government and development partners in SUN, nutrition and health systems strengthening activities in Sierra Leone.
Chief Executive Officer of Focus 1000, Mohammed Jalloh, appealed to participants to find a catchy-name for the organization, informing that the activities have been combined for the two groups to have synergy, complement each other and participants to initiate activities to promote immunization and nutrition.
He said the forum was to receive updates from the districts that would help in presenting monthly reports as well as address challenges that would help to strengthen coordination of CSOs in enhancing immunization and nutrition to avoid duplication and to fill in the gaps.
Mr. Jalloh said a stronger CSO voice would enhance and facilitate nutrition and immunization activities at community level, and to avoid disseminating conflicting messages to the people.
A platform would be created to setup a website for partners so that they can upload information and data affirming that if CSOs are united, they can be a powerful force to advocate to government on behalf of the people.
Other issues raised by participants were that some CSOs are involved in both immunization and nutrition, underlining that the two are very important components in good health.
It was further highlighted that nutrition programs had for long been implemented in schools and health centers without much impact, and that 1 in 3 children under the age of 5 are stunted.
Participants added that nutrition is multi-faceted and underscored the need for partners to come together and get more people involved, reiterating that malnutrition should not kill any child thus stressing the need to reduce stunting from 25% to 11% by 2020.
According to Monica Njoroge, Sierra Leone started the GAVI process last year with the formulation of the terms of reference and setting up of the Task Force, adding that quarterly meetings are also held as Sierra Leone received funds for the Civil Society Platforms on SUN and Immunization and that the funds are managed by UNICEF.
She continued that work did not start on time, and funds were only made available a month ago, stating that Sierra Leone is part of the Global Civil Society Network in London.
Njoroge further stated that the platform would further strengthen CSOs on resource mobilization to support food security, as well as increase focus on national outcome, produce robust evidence of best practices, advocate for mass sensitization of the three Gender Acts.
She disclosed plans to establish a secretariat and recruit a coordinator and finance officer.
Helen Keller International and Focus 1000 are co-chairing the CSO Platform on SUN and Immunization.
The objectives of the CSO Platform are to establish functional civil society platform in SUN and health system, strengthening processes to ensure that government and development partners recognize and engage with the platform.