Investing in nutrition

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SUN Countries are working towards demonstrating better use of finance data through improved advocacy, planning and impact which will lead to increased resources from both domestic and external sources. They doing this by regularly and transparently tracking nutrition budget allocations against multi-sectoral nutrition plans.

How much do governments invest in nutrition?


Government budget allocations to nutrition-specific and nutrition sensitive interventions in 24 countries. Click to enlarge.

Each SUN Country has a different context, and therefore, there is no gold-standard for investigating national budgets that can be used by all. Nevertheless, SUN Countries are undertaking the SUN Movement Budget Analysis Exercise and the experience is proving to be a valuable cross-country learning experience. In a study undertaken by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) funded MQSUN project, based on the SUN Movement Budget Analysis Exercise, the variation of nutrition related investments can be seen in the graph to the right. Across the 24 countries, 33 per cent is spent on agriculture, education, social protection and health. The nutrition communities are crunching the numbers to make these budgets work harder for nutrition by incorporating nutrition targets and through tracking impact.


The need to better track nutrition investments has been highlighted since the beginning of the Movement. A 2013 literature review examined what could be done to track spending and in 2014, online budget reviews were undertaken of 28 countries in the SUN Movement.  The 3-Step Approach to Budget Analysis was identified by SUN Countries and technical partners as a quick and practical way to report on nutrition relevant allocations in national budgets. The objective of the 2014 pilot exercise in Costa Rica was to reach an estimate of the total budget allocated to nutrition relevant activities across key sectors based on a common understand with key Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). These findings were presented at the 2014 SUN Movement Global Gathering.

By June 2015, in response to a call of interest during the 17th series of SUN Country Network Meetings, 30 SUN Countries had gone through Step One and Step Two and 14 of those had made considerable progress with Step 3. The preliminary analysis, was featured in the 2015 Global Nutrition Report and used to inform the first ever framework for investing in nutrition, in addition to being presented at the 2015 SUN Movement Global Gathering.

As of 2016, the budget analysis work has continued with 19 additional SUN Countries joining the exercise for the first time in addition to 22 countries undertaking the exercise for the second time.

Last updated: December 2016

David Nabarro, former SUN Movement Coordinator, commends the budget analysis work of SUN Countries during the 2015 SUN Movement Global Gathering.

Nutrition financing: Why does it matter? by SPRING – USAID’s technical program

The 3-Step Approach to Budget Analysis & regional workshops

The 3-Step Approach is recognised in the SUN Movement as a quick and practical way to report on nutrition relevant allocations in national budgets. The overall approach is largely based on the SUN Donor Network Methodology. The 3-Step Approach is a useful exercise in transparency as it allows countries to view changes in budgetary allocations (and actual expenditures when possible) in national budgets over time. While the results do not directly allow for comparisons across countries due to the variations between countries, the 3-Step approach is designed to help countries to identify gaps between what is needed, and what is spent.

Step one

Identifying relevant budget-line items through a strategically created key word search. Where possible, the initial search relates to relevant outcomes and actions as presented in national plans for nutrition.

Step two

Clearly assessing whether the identified budget-line items are specific to nutrition, which allocations are related to nutrition (nutrition-sensitive), and those which are unrelated to nutrition. The budget-line items that are found to be not relevant for nutrition are excluded from the analysis after further consultations.

Step three

Weighting or applying an attributed percentage of the allocated budget-line item to nutrition where the percentage is based on the step-two categorization as well as consultation with national experts.

Presentation about the 3-Step Approach

Regional workshops

Nairobi, Kenya, from 22 to 24 August 2016

Bangkok, Thailand, from 25 to 27 April 2016

Guatemala City, Guatemala from 28 to 30 April 2015

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire from 27 to 29 April 2015

Entebbe, Uganda from 21 to 22 April 2015

Bangkok, Bangkok, Thailand from 15 to 16 April 2015

SUN Country Budget Analysis Profiles

Bangladesh English

Burkina Faso English | Français

Burundi English | Français

Cameroon English | Français

Chad English | Français

Comoros English | Français

Costa Rica English | Español

Democratic Republic of the Congo English | Français

Guatemala English | Español

Indonesia English

Kenya English

Lesotho English

Madagascar English | Français

Maharashtra State of India English

Mauritania English | Français

Nepal English

Pakistan English

Peru English | Español

Tajikistan English

Vietnam English

Yemen English

Reports, presentations, tools & guidance


  • 2016 Bangkok Regional Workshop Report English
  • 2016 MQSUN Report: Analysis of Nutrition-Sensitive Budget Allocations English 
  • 2015 Short Synthesis Report: SUN Movement Budget Analysis Exercise English | Français

Technical consultation series & presentations

Tools and guidance

  • SUN Guidance: 3-Step Approach (2016) English
  • SUN Guidance: Step 2 and 3 (2015) English
  • SUN Guidance: 3-Step Approach (2015) English
  • SUN Budget Analysis Reporting Template (2015) English
  • SPRING Guidance: Nutrition Budget Analysis Tool English 
  • SPPING Excel: English
Learnings and challenges

Learnings from the 3-Step Approach

Step one: Learnings from SUN Countries: Analyses focused on the national government budgets that were publicly available and did not include sub-national governments, with the exception of Pakistan. Most analayses also focused only on the allocations that are documented in national budgets (on-budget), leaving the off-budget allocations out of the analysis.

Step two: Learnings from SUN Countries: For “nutrition-specific” interventions, emphasis was placed on the importance of the continuum of care targeting the First 1,000 Days and women in reproductive age, including adolescent girls. When it was not obvious from the programme name or description, two criteria were identified as useful for taking decisions on the categorization:

  1. Defining the expected outcomes, including the contribution of sectors towards positive behavioral changes in feeding practices and consumption patterns (e.g. access to a balanced diet throughout the year); and,
  2. Identifying the targeted population (direct and indirect beneficiaries of a given action).

Step three: Learnings from SUN Countries: There was considerable discussion on what “weights” should be applied for nutrition-sensitive allocations based on:

  1. Their expected outcome (theoretical weight reflecting the literature) or;
  2. Based on an estimate of the nutrition component (predictable weight reflecting the amount of nutrition activities in an integrated programme)

Three challenges emerging from the exercise:

  • Accounting for personnel costs
  • Inconsistent categorisation of nutrition-sensitive and nutrition-specific budget line items
  • Analysing allocations at sub-national level

How much should be invested in high impact interventions?

Undernutrition imposes a staggering cost worldwide, both in human and economic terms. It is responsible for the deaths of more than one-third of all deaths among children under five and the loss of billions of dollars in forgone economic productivity and avoidable health care spending.

In 2016, the first ever Financing Framework for Nutrition was launched by World Bank President, Jim Kim, which called for an additional USD 7 billion over the next 10 years to achieve four of the six World Health Assembly Targets. This is in addition to the USD 3.9 the world currently spends annualy. These estimates build on figures shared at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in 2015 and make a significant contribution to framing the total size of resources required to address malnutrition.

Calls for investment continue to grow, most notably, at the groundbreaking Human Capital Summit on the opening day of the 2016 World Bank Annual Meetings. Here, the Prime Minister of Cote d’Ivoire, and Finance and Economic Ministers of Cameroon, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Madagascar, Pakistan, Senegal, and Tanzania pledged to improve nutrition, health and education programs for young children to dramatically reduce childhood stunting and equip tens of millions of young children with the abilities they need to succeed in a fast changing world.

What is the global financing landscape?

Recent estimates recognise the gravely inadequeate levels of financing for nutrition and the urgent need to mobilise more, and more effective, resources. SUN Countries together with SUN Supporters are working towards “global solidarity” to accelerate progress to do this. They are working together to make existing money work harder and to mobilise new money for nutrition. Beyond public expenditure, this includes donors, innovative financing mechanisms, businesses and consumers.

The SUN Movement Strategy and Roadmap (2016-2020) calls for improved access and use of financial resources for nutrition. As a step towards the SUN Movement’s pursuit of this objective, a mapping was underaken in 2016 of multilateral external (i.e. non-domestic) investments to improve awareness and understanding of nutrition funding sources and how to access them. The work was overseen by the SUN Donor Network, with the assistance of an independent consultant and the financial support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Key findings of the mapping




Summary of the mapping exercise: English


Table of nutrition funding sources English

To learn more about Donor agencies investing in nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive investments, visit the SUN Donor Network page.

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