Official Development Assistance (ODA) that is dedicated to basic nutrition programmes represents only 0.4% of total aid, according to a new report that analysed figures from 2011.  Although some countries are showing leadership in this field, resources and political will remain insufficient to eradicate world hunger. In 2010 the World Bank estimated that an increase of US$10.3 billion in annual financial resources would end under-nutrition. But since then, basic nutrition ODA has increased by only US$139 million, about 1.4% of the identified need.

Credit: GAINAlliance

According to the Development Initiatives report, Canada is currently the largest donor of basic nutrition , disbursing an annual average of US$108 million between 2009 and 2011  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation disbursed US$64 million.  The UK and Japan follow, with US$47 million and US$46 million respectively, including contributions made through bilateral aid and through multilateral agencies. EU institutions were also important donors, with contributions of over $34million.

The figures are complicated by differing definitions used in different agencies. The figures above show nutrition-specific programmes. But a larger amount is given to programmes that have are nutrition sensitive, for example programmes in sectors, such as health, agriculture or education. The nutrition-specific components of such interventions are hard to identify and measure. ODA to projects that have a direct impact on nutrition will therefore  be higher than that recorded by the ODA data. Assessing how much of this funding supports nutrition outcomes directly remains problematic.

It is important to publicise the low levels of Aid going to nutrition programming. Under-nutrition is the underlying cause of a third  of all deaths of children under five. Under-nourished children are also more likely to be vulnerable to illnesses and earn about 10% less as adults if they survive. In 2006 the World Bank found that under-nutrition could result in a loss of about 2–3% of national GDP, hence reducing the domestic revenue available for investing in infrastructure and public services.  Investments in nutrition are essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and ultimately the eradication of poverty.

The figures provided in the new report come at an important time, just weeks before the Prime Ministers Summit on June 8th. The UK government and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) will be co-hosting a high-level international meeting, Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science in London. The event will bring together business leaders, scientists, governments and civil society to make the ambitious commitments needed to tackle under-nutrition in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Steve Lewis, head of Global Health Advocacy at RESULTS UK, said “These figures draw attention to the very low levels of Aid going to nutrition specific programmes in the poorest countries. Yet interventions to address under-nutrition are among the most effective in reducing poverty. The 2012 Copenhagen Consensus, a panel of international development experts, showed that such interventions can provide a return of US$30 per child for each dollar spent”.

RESULTS supporters can support the success of the June 8th Summit by writing to MP’s and ask them to make the following points to the Prime Minister:

  • The success of the June 8th summit depends on the high-level world leaders who attend – we request that David Cameron himself is present at the summit.
  • Funding for nutrition programmes is highly effective.  A package of interventions to reduce under-nutrition proposed by The Lancet in 2008 was deemed the most effective among 30 measures to tackle poverty.
  • Therefore  the UK government should make a substantial, multi-year, pledge at the conference which will inspire other donors to follow suit.