Advancing Capacity for Nutrition Data Analysis in West Africa

© Talitha Brauer / Save the Children

Food and nutrition security – particularly for children, adolescent girls, and women of reproductive age – remains a priority for all Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) member states, as there has been limited progress in achieving global nutrition targets[1]. Malnutrition is a significant public health problem in the region, with an estimated 50 percent of women of reproductive age who are anemic[2] and 13.1 percent who are obese based on 2017 data[3]. Among children under five years in 2019, 18.5 million were stunted (29.2%), and 5.1 million (8.1%) wasted[4]. The recent Global Nutrition Report shows that no country in the region is on track to meet targets for anemia in women of reproductive age and obesity among women[5].

The West African Health Organization (WAHO) coordinates and supports activities aimed at reducing the high rate of maternal and child mortality in the ECOWAS region. Together with the African Population and Health Research Center, the organization also leads the Countdown to 2030[6]  regional efforts to strengthen national and regional capacity to develop, implement and monitor reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, adolescent health and nutrition (RMNCAH & N) policies and programs so as to leave no one behind. In line with this, exceptional efforts and investment are required to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals relating to food security, eradication of hunger, improvement of nutritional status, and promotion of sustainable agriculture.

To advance this work, WAHO led the Countdown to 2030 regional initiative for evidence generation and capacity building in data analysis in West and Central Africa. The Countdown to 2030 initiative recently released a country analysis report covering 15 countries to help advance the use of nutrition data for action in the region. The analysis advocates for more evidence-based solutions for improving inequalities and coverage of nutrition interventions for women, children and adolescents.  It is the result of two regional workshops held in June and October 2019 in Dakar, Senegal. The workshops demonstrated that nutrition inequalities exist across countries and within communities.  There are consistently large disparities in prevalence of stunting and wasting in the poorest households and in rural populations.

Data analysis and its translation permits useful conclusions and solutions to enable stakeholders to make evidence-informed decisions at national and sub-national level when prioritizing nutrition programs and financing. As highlighted by the Call to Action, the efforts to strengthen nutrition analytical capacity in the ECOWAS region must continue in order to make progress toward improving nutrition in the region.

WAHO has identified several key future actions in relation to the nutrition data value chain that respond to various aspects of the Call To Action:

  1. Expand the dissemination of the nutrition evidence for decision-making by supporting initiatives to further translate the nutrition analytical results from the Countdown to 2030 regional initiative into actionable items. One way of achieving this is through policy briefs and presentations, and identification of country and regional level opportunities to share the evidence with policy makers;
  2. Require all strategic plans and policies for nutrition to specifically address planning, financing, and coordination of nutrition data and multisectoral information systems.
  3. Request ECOWAS states to build nutrition intervention coverage indicators and equity analysis into their national multisectoral health plans;
  4. Establish a regional Nutrition Observatory in collaboration with partners, for regional accountability and transparency for nutrition policies, ensure compliance with regional commitments, monitor quality of delivered interventions, management of resources allocated to food and nutrition security, and efficient tracking of nutrition indicators;
  5. Continue to collaborate with Countdown to 2030 and other partners to identify, leverage and support national universities and training institutions as primary partners for capacity development, data collection and nutrition research;
  6. Harmonize tertiary-level training curricula in nutrition and support national universities and training institutions as primary partners for capacity development, data collection and nutrition research.

During the 2021, Year of Action for Nutrition, leading up to the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit (N4G), ECOWAS member states have an opportunity to make impactful investments in nutrition data.  WAHO is committed to working very closely with Countdown to 2030, Transform Nutrition West Africa, UNICEF, DataDENT and all other relevant partners to promote investment in the nutrition data value chain in the ECOWAS region.

Blog written by WAHO, Countdown to 2030, and APHRC, with support from Transform Nutrition West Africa

All workshop materials and outputs:

Full report (English) | Rapport complet (français) | Relatório completo (Português)
Executive summary (English) | Résumé exécutif (français) | Sumário executivo (Português)

Workshop Report 1 (English)

Workshop Report 2 (English) | Rapport d’atelier 2 (français)

Benin document d’orientation strategique (français)
Niger document d’orientation strategique (français)
Senegal document d’orientation strategique (français)

Peer-reviewed article – Jiwani et al,  Trends and inequalities in the nutritional status of adolescent girls and adult women in sub-Saharan Africa since 2000: a cross-sectional series study

Micronutrient Forum conference poster – Jiwani et al, Levels, trends and inequalities in anemia and obesity among adolescent girls and adult women in sub-Saharan Africa since 2000


[1] 2020 Global Nutrition Report: Action on equity to end malnutrition. Bristol, UK: Development Initiatives.

[2] WHO, Global Health Observatory Data Repository/World Health Statistics 2017.

[3] NCD Risk Factor Collaboration 2017

[4] UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Group – Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates 2019 edition

[5] 2020 Global Nutrition Report: Action on equity to end malnutrition. Bristol, UK: Development Initiatives

[6] Countdown to 2030 is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional collaboration, generating evidence to foster advocacy and accountability for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health.