Estimating the Costs and Financing Needs to Achieve the World Health Assembly’s Global Nutrition Targets

The Challenge

Malnutrition is a pervasive and neglected problem. A child dies from hunger-related diseases every 5 seconds, and over 45% of all child deaths globally can be attributed to malnutrition. In contrast, good nutrition builds human capital and boosts multigenerational prosperity. Good nutritional status is linked to improved school completion rates, higher household income, and ultimately a greater chance at escaping the cycle of poverty.

One challenge is that although nutrition interventions have enormous potential to save lives and boost prosperity, nutrition has historically been a relatively low priority for country governments and donor organizations. Another challenge is that relatively little is known about what’s currently being spent on nutrition at the global and country level – and how much more money is needed. In order to mobilize additional nutrition funding, donors and governments need robust financial analyses, including the costs and potential financing scenarios for scaling up nutrition programs.

The Opportunity

To galvanize action on nutrition, the World Health Assembly has established six global nutrition targets to be met by 2025. The targets are as follows:

  • 40 percent reduction in the number of children under-5 who are stunted (low height for age)
  • 50 percent reduction of anemia in women of reproductive age
  • 30 percent reduction in low birthweight infants
  • No increase in childhood overweight
  • At least a 50 percent increase in the rate of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a child’s life
  • Reduce and maintain childhood wasting (low weight for height) to less than 5 percent

Although these global targets have been featured prominently in the global dialogue around nutrition policy and financing, many nutrition stakeholders have noted that mobilizing additional nutrition financing would require the following two pieces of information:

  • Estimates of the price tag to meet these global nutrition targets by 2025
  • Potential financing scenarios that assess potential contributions by donors, country governments, the private sector, and innovative financing mechanisms in order to meet the funding gap

Our Work

In a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, R4D has partnered with the World Bank and the advocacy organization 1,000 Days to address this critical knowledge gap. Together, R4D and the World Bank have developed the first global estimates of the costs and financing needs to achieve four of the six World Health Assembly targets (stunting, wasting, exclusive breastfeeding and anemia). R4D is leading the technical analysis on potential financing scenarios, and the World Bank is leading the technical analysis on estimated costs.

The ultimate goal of this work is to generate evidence to support advocacy efforts towards scaling up cost-effective, lifesaving nutrition interventions. The core messages from this investment framework have the potential to unlock increased funding for nutrition and help spend existing funding in more impactful ways.

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Photo ©Russell Watkins/Department for International Development

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