Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Alliance is an umbrella of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Rwanda to promote sensitive and specific nutrition actions. In 2014, 79 Civil Society Organizations in the fight against malnutrition in Rwanda endorsed the establishment of the Alliance, and was legally registered in June 2016. This late registration was caused by the SUN global model which required not Civil Society Alliance’s across countries to register since they were considered as simple movements to scale up nutrition but this contradicted the national laws of Rwanda. Thus, with guidance from the Government, SUN Alliance leadership took steps to legally register in accordance with the laws in Rwanda.
The primary purpose of the SUN Alliance is to strengthen the coordination between nutrition actors, through tracking results and aligning strategies, programs and resources of its members with country plans to eliminate all forms of Malnutrition.
Sharing knowledge and best practices on how to fight and eliminate malnutrition
SUN Alliance also believes that collaborating with partners to implement programmes with shared nutrition goals, and collectively mobilize resources to effectively scale up nutrition, with a core focus on empowering women and children is an effective approach to addressing malnutrition.
Since establishment, SUN Alliance has helped facilitate a rich and concerted knowledge exchange among member CSOs using other SUN umbrellas in other countries as a foundation for sharing and learning. Guided by this exchange, more practical guidance and support is envisioned to be generated to help inform the paths Civil Society Organizations they choose to take.
This Alliance approach, since then has helped raise awareness about the vital importance of nutrition as a universal move; one that is integral to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to have a world without hunger and malnutrition.
In recent years, nutrition has increasingly gained attention as a powerful tool in the battle against malnutrition. In the face of global threats – including economic challenges and climate change – strategies to eliminate malnutrition are frequently being adopted to enable populations better adapt to the shocks and stresses these global changes bring.
With malnutrition remaining one of the greatest and most urgent global challenges, maximizing the positive impact of policies, programmes and projects on nutrition outcomes becomes an imperative. The aim, therefore, must be to design and coordinate their implementation.
It is for this reason that, in 2014, thanks to a start-up grant from the Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF)-coordinated by the World Food Program (WFP), Rwanda Offices- the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN)-Civil Society Alliance was established. The primary purpose of SUN Alliance was to strengthen the coordination between nutrition actors, through tracking results and aligning strategies, programs and resources of its members with country plans to eliminate all forms of Malnutrition.
This Fund however was channeled through Catholic Relief Services and Society for Family Health (SFH) Rwanda to coordinate, mobilise, advocate and communicate among Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) the need to establish Alliance. This was done consultatively with the UN REACH and thus resulted into the CSOs mapping exercise and then the Alliance.
The duo facilitated bringing together a number of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working on nutrition in the country. The first launch event brought together 150 participants to introduce them to the concept of working as a coordinated Alliance. In March 2015, the first General Assembly was conducted and thereafter the second Assembly of all nutrition actors in October 2015 respectively.
SUN Alliance stakeholders in the second General Assembly
To date, SUN Alliance includes 79 civil society members from all CSOs and academia, who are actively engaged in scaling up nutrition for both specific and sensitive interventions at national and districts level. The Alliance however continues to receive applications for members from CSOs and will soon be tabled within the next general Assembly for acceptance.
Catalyzing Engagement at the District Level
Since Rwanda takes a decentralized approached to malnutrition through emphasizing District Plans to Eliminate Malnutrition (DPEMs), a key early activity for the Alliance was to establish District SUN Committees—the link between the national SUN Alliance and communities to be served. These groups advocate and mobilize stakeholders so that the DPEMs of their respective districts are effectively implemented. Through the SUN MPTF project funds, Alliance partners carried out initial mobilization of district stakeholders, conducting meetings with stakeholders in all the Districts to introduce the SUN Alliance and to assist with the identification of each District’s SUN Focal point.
Following the sensitization, grants were issued to district SUN committees to advance the Alliance objectives at the local level. Twelve districts were competitively selected to receive funds for their events, based on the creativity, feasibility, and relevance of their proposals. A wide range of activities were proposed and funded, thereafter.
Mobilizing and Mapping for Effective Advocacy
To assess nutrition actions and to drive advocacy and planning efforts in the nascent SUN Alliance, an exercise was conducted out with UN REACH to map the landscape of nutrition across the country, using the Scaling Up Nutrition Planning & Monitoring Tool (SUNPMT), a tool validated and adapted to the Rwandan context in consultation with members of civil society.
The mapping study examined the organizations active in nutrition in each district, coverage of interventions, and key nutrition actions to be scaled up. Findings were used to enhance advocacy efforts by showing where gaps existed, both in terms of geographical coverage of interventions and in technical coverage of essential nutrition actions. Local advocacy meetings for mayors and other officials provided a forum for presenting and discussing the results specific to each district. The overall results were later useful in planning advocacy meetings with Members of Parliament, to raise the profile of nutrition issues among MPs.
In addition to working with and advocating amongst decision makers, the SUN Alliance also directly mobilized communities in partnership with local CSOs. Twenty-four community mobilization events advanced nutrition awareness through cooking demonstrations and interpersonal communication strategies. Additionally, seven mobile video unit sessions reached a large audience with behavior change messages in an appealing video formats. These events served both to deliver messages on maternal and child nutrition, and to increase the visibility of the SUN Alliance countrywide.