National development plans in Africa are increasingly recognizing nutrition as both essential for development and a social right. So far, however, this has not resulted in the large-scale provision of nutrition services necessary to reduce the high levels of malnutrition on the continent. Nutrition now has to feature more prominently in policymaking processes, and the resultant policies have to be translated into effective programs to achieve a significant reduction in the burden that malnutrition imposes on so many African households, communities, and nations. The experience of East Africa has relevance for policy and program design in other regions affected by malnutrition.
Sector-specific nutrition policies are fairly common. For example, policies exist for micronutrients (such as iodine), breastfeeding, infant and young child feeding, and food safety, along with supporting strategies and guidelines for implementation. Most of these policies do not require new legislation or new institutional structures.
At another level, however, there is a need for coordinated nutrition-related policies that will require governments to put in place new institutional frameworks, dedicated budgets, tax breaks (or other incentives) for private-sector investment, and in some cases substantial changes in operational responsibilities and processes. These and similar initiatives will require a multisectoral commitment; they need to navigate a more complex policymaking pathway—with scrutiny from a broader set of actors—than do sector-specific policies.