Nutrition Aid Architecture: How could improvements in financing mechanisms galvanise the global effort?

The recent Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) brought UN member states together to bring much needed global attention to the billions of people around the world who suffer from all forms of malnutrition – undernutrition, overnutrition, and micronutrient deficiencies.

At the same time, the first ever Global Nutrition Report was launched which highlighted the importance of stepping up our nutrition interventions if we are to tackle malnutrition globally. The world is not currently on course to meet the 2025 World Health Assembly Targets for reducing malnutrition. This report is particularly timely as an accountability tool to track commitments, and progress in the global fight against malnutrition.

What the support for ICN2 demonstrates is a global consensus that all forms of malnutrition are unacceptable, preventable, and more must be done to saves millions of lives from the devastating effects of malnutrition. Children, women, and adolescent girls, are in particular at a high risk of adverse long term and irreversible impacts of undernutrition.

The financial shortfall within the nutrition sector is one of the biggest barriers to success, and reflects insufficient political commitment to tackling the scourge of undernutrition. Only 0.4% of Overseas Development Aid is spent on nutrition programmes; identified by The Lancet in 2013 as only around 1.4% of what is required. This is despite evidence proving undernutrition contributes to 45% of all deaths in children under the age of 5. There is therefore an urgent need for Governments to bridge the financial gap for nutrition.

A new report from RESULTS UK titled Nutrition Aid Architecture: How could improvements in financing mechanisms galvanise the global effort?” acknowledges the complexity of finance for nutrition but highlights the opportunities that exist to raise the much needed funds.

The report asks if there is anything the nutrition sector can learn from the success of big ‘global funds’ in other development sectors, for example, the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In other development sectors there is one predominant ‘Global Fund’ that can deliver economies of scale and invest in strong global programmes. Although currently there does not appear to be an appetite for one such nutrition focused fund, there are various innovative mechanisms, both existing and due to be launched, which could provide significant and much needed finance for nutrition.

Photo: Sanjit Das / RESULTS UK
Photo credit: Sanjit Das / RESULTS UK

When considering existing mechanisms the report explores the significant opportunity to build on the technical expertise of the SUN Movement and expand their Multi Party Trust Fund as well as noting the importance of domestic financing.

New mechanisms explored in the report include the Catalytic Fund for Nutrition, the Global Financing Facility and the innovative UNITLIFE.

  • The Catalytic Fund for Nutrition was a commitment made at the historic Nutrition for Growth (N4G) conference held in London in 2013. The fund, which is almost ready to be launched, is aiming to mobilise between $400m - $1 billion for nutrition. This could prevent over 100,000 deaths in children under 5 and reduce stunting in some of the worst affected areas by 20-30% within the next 8 years.
  • The Global Financing Facility was announced by the World Bank at this year’s UN General Assembly and has the potential to leverage up to $3.2 billion for health and nutrition programmes. RESULTS believe this will be also a beneficial new source of financing for the sector but it is essential that nutrition is firmly included in the guidelines for the GFF.
  • The report explores the expansion of Mr Douste-Blazy’s successful UNITAID project to tackle undernutrition. Under the name UNITLIFE, the new project has the potential to raise hundreds of millions of dollars through a projected tiny level on oil revenues for at least 8 countries in Africa.

The Nutrition Aid Architecture report demonstrates that financing for nutrition is a complex web of multi-sector donors, innovative mechanisms and often uncoordinated efforts. We urgently need greater coordination, a crucial increase in finance domestically and a continued international focus on tackling malnutrition.