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Tracking nutrition investments

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The need to better track nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive investments has been recognised as a priority since the inception of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement. This accountability mechanism continues to be central to ensuring that investments in nutrition are not just well accounted for but also directed to best effect today.

Since 2015, 50 SUN member countries – or 81 per cent – have conducted the SUN Movement budget analysis exercise exercise, providing valuable insights into the nature of governmental allocations towards nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive areas. The results of this exercise have been made publicly available through the SUN Movement investment database.

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.

Budget Analysis for Nutrition

Between 2015 and 2019, 51 countries conducted an analysis of their government budgets, with 8 countries having done three times and 5 countries four times. These efforts show that it is feasible to conduct a budget analysis but also that this process needs to be sustained and improved. This guidance note builds on previous versions (2015, 2016 and 2017) and benefited from inputs and review from many partners. The document is developed to support SUN Government Focal Points and their in-country partners, as they constitute the so-called national Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Nutrition. The content and format of the guidance note is meant to be continuously updated as new evidence and lessons become available.

• Download the 2018 Guidance note: English


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.

Moving into 2016, the budget analysis work continued with two regional workshops in Nairobi and Bangkok aimed at enhancing financial tracking capabilities which resulted in 19 additional SUN Countries joining the exercise for the first time in addition to 22 countries undertaking the exercise for the second time.

Reflecting from these initial years to where we are today, the budget analysis seems to be an exercise less about financial tracking and more about showing how countries are investing and assisting them in increasing and/or spending better their resources. SUN countries who performed the budget tracking analysis at least twice have reported that this exercise provides a very useful entry point for sensitizing relevant sectors and stakeholders of the value of addressing malnutrition. Specifically, the budget analysis exercise data helps SUN Countries to:

  • Map alignment of planned and budgeted interventions
  • Monitor performance and expenditures of implemented interventions
  • Map alignment of budgeted programs’ objectives against drivers of malnutrition (in the case of nutrition-sensitive budget allocations)
  • Advocate for
    • scale up implementation and mobilize resources
    • better coordination and targeting of programs (both geographic and population)
    • integration of nutrition high-impact interventions in selected programs

For these reasons, conducting budget analysis on a regular basis can support the continuous engagement of all those actors who have a key role to play in scaling up nutrition.


Last updated: October 2019

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 Budget Analysis Exercise and 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.

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

Reports, presentations, tools & guidance


  • 2016 Nairobi Regional Workshop Report English 
  • 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

  • Budget Analysis Excel Worksheet Template (2017) English
  • Guidance for Budget Analysis (2017) English
  • 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 
  • SPRING 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

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