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What does the GNC do?

The GNC is first and foremost a coordination mechanism. The GNC was established in 2006 as part of the Humanitarian Reform process, which aimed to improve the effectiveness of the humanitarian response by ensuring greater predictability, accountability and partnership. The GNC’s core purpose is to enable country coordination mechanisms to achieve timely, quality, and appropriate nutrition response to emergencies. The GNC supports countries in their strategic decision-making, planning and strategy development, capacity building on coordination and IM/KM, advocacy, monitoring and reporting, and contingency planning/preparedness.

The GNC ensures a well-coordinated and effective nutrition response where the scale of the emergency is so large that no single agency or national authority can address it alone. The aim of our efforts is to eliminate the unnecessary duplication of efforts and support country capacity strengthening and emergency planning/preparedness to establish a nutrition response that saves lives.  

We exist to collectively strengthen the technical and coordination capacities for nutrition in countries, based on the needs of affected populations, where the GNC Technical Alliance addresses technical capacity strengthening. This is to enable countries to forecast nutritional trends and better prepare for, respond to, and recover from, shocks during humanitarian emergencies. 

What does coordination mean?

Coordination means the harmonious functioning of parts to build an efficient relationship to achieve results. In the context of a humanitarian response during emergencies, it brings people and organizations together to work toward a common goal, with defined roles and responsibilities, so people know what to do, when to do it, and where, without the unnecessary duplication of efforts.  

Coordination helps to minimize conflicts, response delays and other organizational challenges that may arise during emergencies or in fragile contexts and ensures a smooth functioning of organizations and partners. 

What type of support does the GNC provide and how do I request support? 

One of the GNC strategic priorities is to provide support to both national and sub-national nutrition cluster/sector coordination mechanisms. Depending on the needs, several options are available, such as short-term, quick support through our helpdesks and longer term remote and in-country support through our rapid response team (RRT) and other mechanisms.  

Have a look at our Remote / In-Country Support page to learn more and request support.  

What is a cluster and why is it necessary?

Clusters are groups of humanitarian organizations, both UN and non-UN, in each of the main sectors of humanitarian action, e.g. health, nutrition, WASH. They are designated by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and have clear responsibilities for coordinating a response that is clear and effective. The cluster system was created to fill accountability gaps in international humanitarian responses. Its purpose is to ensure that no single humanitarian agency is accountable for the entire response during an emergency and rather the accountability of the delivery of services (health, shelter, etc.) is spread across different cluster lead agencies. 

Clusters promote a common strategy and best practices, bring partners together, avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts, address gaps, and share information. The intent is to build national capacity to prepare for and respond to emergencies, and advocate for more effective and accountable humanitarian action.

The aim of the cluster approach is to better organize the humanitarian community by fostering cooperation and collaboration to ensure immediate and effective support is available to crisis-affected people at the necessary scale and without unnecessary gaps or duplication of efforts. The purpose is to provide the necessary leadership to advocate for more effective and accountable action by clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of humanitarian organizations.

Clusters are not meant to be a permanent solution to address nutrition in fragile contexts or during an emergency and rather is a “means to an end” with the goal of strengthening national capacity to prepare for and respond to humanitarian emergencies effectively and efficiently. It provides independent and impartial support prior to, during and after crises and contributes to building systems and capacities for durable solutions that span the humanitarian – development continuum. 

To learn more about Nutrition Cluster Coordination and Information Management, visit GNC-Learn  on AGORA. 

Why do we need a separate cluster for nutrition? 

During an emergency, saving as many lives as possible is the goal and all sectors and clusters have a vital role to play in addressing the needs of the affected populations. For example, Food Security addresses undernourishment by increasing access to food of the general population through food distribution. This is a critical way to ensure that the food needs of those affected are met, however, this distribution does not cover the nutritional needs of the most vulnerable: children under 5 years of age and pregnant and lactating women, among others.

In addition, while the Health Cluster may address nutrition during an emergency, it is not done as a standalone emergency, but as an addition to individuals with accompanying medical complications. Therefore, less focus is given to prevention, supplementary programs, and outpatient therapeutic programs. The identification, referral, and care of moderate and severe acutely malnourished cases would also be limited. As a result, when a nutrition cluster is absorbed into the Health Cluster, the implementation of dedicated nutrition interventions and services does not happen.

Addressing these needs, are of utmost importance to ensure the prevention and treatment of malnutrition in all its forms. As such, the need to separately address nutrition is imperative during emergencies and the Nutrition sector is the sector in charge of responding to the nutritional needs of these vulnerable groups. This is done through nutrition activities that support the prevention and treatment of acute malnutrition prior to, during, and after an emergency. 

While the response from Food Security, Health and other clusters is critical during an emergency, the activation of the nutrition cluster allows for greater visibility of malnutrition as a stand alone emergency.

Does the GNC work with / engage with other clusters or sectors?

Yes. During emergencies, access to basic health and nutrition services becomes limited, if not erased altogether. This highlights the necessity of collaboration across all sectors and clusters to ensure a joint response with the aim of increasing access and saving the most lives. Through Inter-Cluster / Sector Collaboration (ICSC), actions are carried out by the relevant sectors/clusters to coordinate a joint response with partners. These programs are delivered at the same time, same place, for the same people based on prioritization of needs and a jointly agreed outcome. 

ICSC promotes a people centered approach building the humanitarian response through a holistic, rather than a siloed, lens. By proposing joint programming at the same place and same time, barriers to access become minimal. For example, when a family visits a health center for the treatment of SAM for the child, the family can also receive vaccinations or other health services, a WASH kit to treat unclean water, and a voucher for food supplements – all at once, at the same place. This approach reduces costs and allows for more resource availability with the aim of leading an effective and efficient response that will have a greater impact on the affected populations. 

ICSC success at the global level:  

  • Joint coordination is happening between the Global Food Security, Health, Nutrition and WASH clusters: the four C’s 
  • Since May 2022, all four clusters have an ISC Helpdesk, known as the ISC platform 
  • Through the ISC working group, the GNC is leading a monthly call for partners to support development of ISC tools from a nutrition lens 
  • Close collaboration with the advocacy helpdesks / advisors from all four clusters 

You can learn more about Inter-cluster coordination here.  

Where can I learn more about cluster/sector coordination and information management? 

We have more than 120 modules on our elearning platform, GNC Learn, where you can skill up and stand out as a professional in nutrition in emergencies. 

What tools are available to support cluster activities? 

Aside from GNC Learn, we have two comprehensive toolkits available on the GNC website: a Coordination Toolkit with practical tools to support nutrition cluster coordinators and nutrition cluster partners, and an IM toolkit to support nutrition cluster information managers and nutrition cluster partners. 

Who is the lead agency of the nutrition cluster?

As per the IASC humanitarian architecture, Nutrition is an independent sector and UNICEF, as Cluster Lead Agency (CLA), has the mandated responsibility to lead the coordination of the nutrition response (inclusive of infant feeding in emergencies). The responsibility is further articulated in UNICEFs core commitments to children (CCCs) - especially under CCC1 that states that CLA responsibility is to ensure adequate and skilled staffing at both the national and sub-national levels, and as stated in the Operational Guidance on Infant Feeding in Emergencies. UNICEF is committed to fulfilling the core functions defined by the IASC when a cluster is activated, including UNICEFs role as the Provider of the Last resort (PoLR). A well-run cluster coordination team with an adequate structure is critical for all aspects of humanitarian action and it is a main deliverable of the CLA. 

How can government authorities and NGOs support coordination leadership? 

In short, the GNC encourages cluster co-leadership by Government authorities at a national level and encourages NGOs to support as a deputy NCC at a national level and as a co-lead at a subnational level. For more information on NGO contribution and support cluster coordination, please read this short guidance note

Neighborhood of Nacololo, District of Monapo, Nampula Province, Mozambique.

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