Working Paper

Building a Stronger System for Tracking Nutrition Sensitive Spending

Date Published

May 4, 2015


Scott B. Ickes, Rachel B. Trichler, Bradley C. Parks



Ickes, Scott B., Rachel B. Trichler, and Bradley C. Parks. Building a Stronger System for Tracking Nutrition Sensitive Spending: A methodology and estimate of global spending for nutrition sensitive foreign aid. AidData Working Paper #7. Williamsburg, VA: AidData at William & Mary.

Update: A revised version of this paper has been published in the Food and Nutrition Bulletin.


There is growing awareness that the necessary solutions for improving nutrition outcomes are multi-sectoral. As such, investments are increasingly directed towards “nutrition sensitive” approaches that not only address an underlying or basic determinant of nutrition, but also seek to achieve an explicit nutrition goal or outcome. Understanding how and where official development assistance for nutrition is invested remains an important but complex challenge. Our objective was to develop a methodology for classifying and tracking nutrition sensitive official development assistance and to produce estimates of the amount of nutrition sensitive aid received by countries with a high burden of undernutrition. We analyzed all financial flows reported to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee Creditor Reporting Service in 2010 to estimate these investments. We assessed the relationships between national stunting prevalence, stunting burden, under-five mortality and the amount of nutrition specific and nutrition sensitive ODA. We estimate that, in 2010, a total of $379.4 million (M) USD was committed to nutrition specific projects and programs, of which 25 designated beneficiaries accounted for nearly 85% ($320 M). A total of $1.79 billion (B) was committed to nutrition sensitive spending, of which the top 25 countries/regions accounted for $1.4 B (82%). Nine categories of development activities accounted for 75% of nutrition sensitive spending, led by Reproductive Health Care (30.4%), Food Aid/Food Security Programs (14.1%), Emergency Food Aid (13.2%), and Basic Health Care (5.0%). Multivariate linear regression models indicate that the amount of nutrition sensitive (p=0·001) and total nutrition ODA was significantly predicted by stunting prevalence (p = 0.001). The size of the total population of stunted children significantly predicted the amount of nutrition specific ODA (p < 0.001). A reliable estimate of nutrition spending is critical for effective planning by both donors and recipients, and a key for success as the global development community re-commits to a new round of goals to address the inter-related causes of undernutrition in low-income countries.

Funding: Funding for this work was provided through the “Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN)Resource Tracking” grant from the Government of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development (formerly Canadian International Development Agency) to AidData.

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