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New Partnership between AidData and Canada Improves Tracking of Overseas Nutrition Investments

New methodology provides donors and recipients with a comprehensive picture of nutrition assistance.

October 1, 2013

New methodology provides donors and recipients with a comprehensive picture of nutrition assistance.

Nearly one in five children under the age of five in the developing world is underweight, and globally, nearly one billion people still suffer from hunger. Undernutrition disproportionately impacts young children, pregnant and lactating mothers, and other vulnerable groups, and has long-lasting impacts on health, education, and income that are difficult for communities to overcome. The burden of disability, disease, and death resulting from undernutrition hinders human development at all ages.

Given that the diverse causes of undernutrition demand complex responses, development finance institutions often design nutrition interventions that defy simple categorization efforts. For example, interventions regularly cut across multiple sectors, such as health, education, and agriculture, and it is not unusual to integrate nutrition components into larger projects with broader aims. The absence of a unified, global tracking system limits opportunities for better targeting, coordination, and evaluation of these overseas investments.

To address this problem, AidData – a partnership between the College of William and Mary,Brigham Young University, and Development Gateway – is working with the Government of Canada to support the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement in its efforts to track development assistance resources aimed at addressing undernutrition.

“We’re all very excited about this opportunity,” noted Scott Ickes, the Co-Principal Investigator and an Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Health Sciences at the College of William and Mary. “This is a timely project that we feel well-positioned to tackle.”

The SUN Movement brings together government, civil society, academic, donor, and private sector stakeholders to support countries as they invest in policies and actions to improve nutrition. Since the launch of the Movement in 2010, several efforts have been made to track donor spending that impacts nutrition. However, the absence of a standardized approach to capture nutrition financing across multiple sectors and within broader programs has posed a significant obstacle.

Currently, the donor tracking system of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) only categorizes nutrition aid as those projects with direct nutrition interventions. This includes direct feeding activities, determination of micronutrient deficiencies, provision of supplements, and household food security, but omits multi-sector projects that include nutrition activities, indicators, or components (often called “nutrition sensitive work”). The definition also excludes projects that more broadly address the underlying determinants of nutrition. A comprehensive classification of all interventions that directly and indirectly promote nutrition is needed to accurately capture the standing of international nutrition financing.

AidData, in collaboration with, is working with the Government of Canada through theForeign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) department and the SUN Movement, will develop a method for tracking the full spectrum of development assistance projects targeting nutrition. An AidData research team will examine more than 25,000 project records in order to identify all 2010 OECD-DAC projects that promote nutrition. This work will result in recommendations that will contribute to ongoing efforts to improve the tracking of nutrition aid. Enhancements to the quality and availability of global nutrition data will increase data usability, fill gaps in current knowledge, and encourage greater donor accountability. 

“Canada is a global leader in nutrition, as well as food security, and we are committed to strengthening countries capacities to address undernutrition, particularly among mothers and children,” said the Canadian Minister of International Development, Christian Paradis. “This investment is part of Canada’s continued efforts to maximize accountability and transparency in order to deliver real results for those most in need.” “Many countries lack a comprehensive understanding of how much assistance is directed towards nutrition, and in what forms,” adds Ickes. “We expect these data to be useful for recipient countries to look critically at how development assistance for nutrition fits within their national plans, and for the development community more broadly to understand the comprehensiveness of nutrition spending.”

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AidData is a research and innovation lab making information on development finance more accessible and actionable. Tracking more than $5.5 trillion dollars from 90+ donor agencies, AidData  undertakes cutting-edge research on aid distribution and impact, geocodes and crowdsources aid information, and develops applications and custom data solutions for development finance institutions.