The Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit in December 2021 will provide a critical opportunity for the nutrition community to renew and expand commitments to address malnutrition globally in pursuit of the 2025 World Health Assembly (WHA) global nutrition targets. Data-driven accountability is a core focus of the N4G vision as improved data, measurement, and use is essential to drive equitable progress and ensure no one is left behind.
Well-functioning nutrition data and information systems (ND&IS) guide the prioritization, collection, analysis, and dissemination of nutrition data in countries. However, DataDENT’s 2019 review of 58 SUN country costed national nutrition plans found that fewer than half of these plans specified data and monitoring & evaluation (M&E) costs.
Little is known about current country and donor financing allocations to ND&IS which limits our ability to effectively advocate for new strategic investments towards priority funding gaps. Ensuring ND&IS ownership and sustainability requires financing from domestic budgets, but donors continue to play a key role in supporting these systems.
To better characterize donor investments in ND&IS, DataDENT recently conducted a review of Official Development Assistance (ODA) financing for the years 2017-2019. We captured investments under six ND&IS relevant domains- 1) periodic data collection, 2) routine data collection, 3) country capacity building, 4) emergency early warning/surveillance systems, 5) global initiatives, and 6) other (Figure 1).
Based on our findings, we share three recommendations for donors to strengthen data, measurement and accountability that impacts all commitment areas of the N4G Summit.
1. Increase financial commitments to at least five percent (4-6%) of overall nutrition investments, alongside country governments, to fill the current gap in financing needed for ND&IS
In 2020 the N4G Financing for Data Thematic Working Group concluded that a benchmark of 4-6% of funding for country multisectoral nutrition plans should be allocated to data-related activities. This corresponds to $427m to $640m annually based on the Global Investment Framework for Nutrition (GIFN) costing estimates. The GIFN is focused on a limited set of direct nutrition interventions primarily delivered by the health sector and so actual ND&IS investment needs are higher when we account for multisectoral nutrition plans.
Our ODA analysis found overall donor financing for ND&IS, while significant at an average of $47m (lower estimate) and $89m (upper estimate) per year, appeared to be plateauing, if not decreasing, between 2017-2019 (Figure 2). This suggests we are currently far from reaching the minimum ND&IS financing needs defined in relation to the GIFN.
2. Continue to prioritize investments for country capacity strengthening for ND&IS. Channel more investments through public institutions to increase ownership and sustainability of national ND&IS.
Across the six ND&IS domains, comparatively less funding has been spent on country capacity strengthening to improve the collection, analysis, use, and monitoring of nutrition related data (Figure 3). Similarly, public institutions have not been the primary recipients of investments to date (Figure 4).
3. Support the integration of more nutrition-related indicators within the health information system while also increasing support for data and information systems in other nutrition relevant sectors.
Figure 5 shows that the majority of ND&IS disbursements come from the “basic nutrition” purpose code which is a sub-code of “health”. Donors should continue to support the integration of nutrition service delivery indicators within the health information system as this is a cost-effective way of improving data In addition, donors should consider increasing support for data and information systems in other sectors (e.g. social protection) which are lagging in monitoring nutrition-relevant indicators.
Stay tuned for the follow-on case study work DataDENT is conducting to describe and cost ND&IS in two specific countries.
Data used in this analysis was drawn from the OECD Creditor Reporting System. The lower estimate includes projects where the full share of the disbursement was relevant for ND&IS, while the upper estimate captures projects where ND&IS activities were one of several components so the exact share of the disbursement could not be unpacked. For a more detailed explanation of methodology please refer to the full report (forthcoming).
 Ellen Piwoz on behalf of the Financing for Data Thematic Working Group, “Mobilising Ambitious, Meaningful and Impactful Commitments for Transformative Change in Nutrition”.