Tracking Nutrition Funding Isn’t Easy, but the Payoff Could be Better Outcomes

Malnutrition is one of the greatest challenges to health and development in many low- and middle-income countries—it contributes to 45 percent of all deaths in children under the age of five. Like any national challenge, sufficient, sustained funding is needed to address this issue.

Yet, as stated in the 2014 Global Nutrition Report, the amount of aid (in the form of overseas development assistance) committed to nutrition is only about 1.4 percent of the amount required to meet global goals for reducing undernutrition. This statistic, however, only accounts for the funding we know about; it does not include government commitments, and may not even be a complete picture of donor funding, given the complex and multisectoral nature of nutrition activities.

We need a more accurate picture of funding already committed in order to improve accountability for nutrition programs. And, equally important, we need to know what influences the amount of funding committed to nutrition in each country to improve advocacy efforts.

Uganda, Nepal, and Multisectoral Budgets for Nutrition

USAID ‘s Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) project is developing evidence to respond to these crucial needs in Uganda and Nepal. Through our Pathways to Better Nutrition study, we are working closely with Uganda’s Office of the Prime Minister and Nepal’s National Planning Commission to document the rollout of both countries’ national nutrition policies and the funding available for the nutrition activities outlined in each plan.

By following Nepal’s Multisectoral Nutrition Plan and the Uganda Nutrition Action Plan, SPRING is tracking a stable set of nutrition-specific and –sensitive activities over three fiscal years to explore if, and how, these policies translate into changes in nutrition funding commitments.

SPRING modified the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement’s 3-Step approach to develop a mixed method, country-specific style of budget analysis to produce estimates of government and donor nutrition commitments. The methods rely on data from nationally-recognized and locally-created documents, increasing credibility and local ownership of findings. All budget findings for each fiscal year are validated with stakeholders after the interview and analysis phase to ensure accuracy and stakeholder buy-in of the final results.

Working with country partners, our study is providing the first comprehensive estimates of budgeted nutrition funding for Nepal and Uganda by compiling national-level estimates that include—

  • all six nutrition-relevant sectors named by the national nutrition action plans (NNAPs);
  • government, on-budget donor, and off-budget donor funds;
  • nutrition-specific vs. nutrition-sensitive funds;
  • breakdowns by NNAP objective areas;
  • triangulated data on the “why” and “how” of nutrition funding commitments from government, donor, UN, CSO, academia, and private sector; and,
  • district-level estimates of funding in a few selected districts in each country.

In addition, while expenditure data are scant and often incomplete, our study provides some illustrative comparisons of nutrition commitments to nutrition spending to understand what percentage of commitments are actually disbursed and spent.

Transferring Methods and Skills

As we near the final year of the study, both partner governments have approved SPRING’s budget methodology and are utilizing our initial budget estimates for the SUN Movement regional budgeting workshops. SPRING is also working with SUN and others at the global level to refine the methodology and develop guidance for additional countries seeking to create their own estimates of multisectoral nutrition funding.

Although getting to this level of understanding has taken several years, the benefits of this more detailed methodology are significant. Already country stakeholders have demonstrated increased ownership of the findings and intend to use the results for planning and advocacy. SPRING is now supporting the transfer of nutrition budget analysis skills to nutrition technical staff, following a successful workshop co-hosted by the German development organization DSW, our partners in Uganda.

**This article was originally published on SecureNutrition.

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