Supporting Catalytic Financing for Nutrition

The Challenge

Under-nutrition, which accounts for one-third of all child deaths, is the single largest contributor to child mortality worldwide. It also costs the global economy billions of dollars each year in health care expenditures and losses in productivity and earnings. These costs are particularly devastating in poor countries, where malnutrition accounts for economic losses of up to 3 percent of yearly GDP.[1]

Despite these staggering consequences, and the development of proven cost-effective interventions, nutrition programs in the developing world have consistently struggled for financial support. Even a recent pledge by donor countries to provide $4.8 billion for nutrition by 2020 falls far short of the estimated $9.6 billion per year needed for cost-effective interventions.[2] In order to support these interventions, the development of improved funding mechanisms that draw in existing and new donors, while at the same time improving the quality and effectiveness of nutrition activities, is essential.

The Opportunity

Recognizing the importance of investment in nutrition, the Department for International Development (DfID), UBS Optimus Foundation, and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) pledged increased funding for nutrition interventions at the June 8 Nutrition For Growth summit in London. These “founding partners” designated part of that funding for a 500 million-to-1 billion-dollar catalytic financing facility whose objective is to accelerate the roll out of high-impact, evidence-based national nutrition programs.

The facility aims to engage donors who have not traditionally supported nutrition programs, as well as increase domestic funding for nutrition in countries experiencing high levels of malnutrition. By backing well-designed national nutrition plans in countries with strong political support for nutrition, the facility’s ultimate goal is to demonstrate how adequately funded and context-appropriate nutrition interventions at the national level can swiftly reduce under-nutrition, as measured by levels of stunting (low height for age) and other key nutrition indicators.

Our Work

The founding partners of the catalytic financing facility asked R4D to help develop options for the proposed nutrition facility, focusing on its strategic objectives, scope, and governance arrangements. R4D’s analysis assesses these options, weighing their expected impact, efficiency and sustainability, aid and development effectiveness, and innovative financing potential.

To conduct this analysis, the project team composed of Senior Fellow Paul Isenman, Managing Director Robert Hecht, Program Associate Tae Min Kim, and consultant Vanya Pasheva held more than 45 interviews of leaders in nutrition and nutrition financing; studied the lessons from a number of existing financing facilities and special programs in global health and education; and drew upon the literature on development financing and governance.

Based on these inputs, and R4D’s broader expertise in innovative financing, the project team drafted a report that provides recommendations on the form and function of the nutrition facility.  This report was presented at a November 7, 2013 meeting at the CIFF headquarters in London, England, where the founding partners discussed the options and agreed to keep refining the design of the catalytic facility and to test it with potential new funders and possible host institutions.

In the time since the report was presented, the catalytic financing facility was launched as “The Power of Nutrition” in April 2015 and made its first major investment in Tanzania  in July 2015, a $20M five-year program to bring crucial micronutrient supplements, education about better nutrition practices, and healthcare services to 20 million children and 5 million women by 2020.

Additional Information


[1]Shekar, Meera, Richard Heaver, and Yi Lee. Repositioning nutrition as central to development: a strategy for large scale action. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2006. Print.

[2]Bhutta, Z. A., Das, J. K., & Rizvi, A. (2013). The Lancet Nutrition Interventions Review Group, and the Maternal and Child Nutrition Study Group. Evidence-based interventions for improvement of maternal and child nutrition: what can be done and at what cost. Lancet, 60996-4.



U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), UBS Optimus Foundation, Children's Investment Fund Foundation



Global & Regional Initiatives

R4D is a globally recognized leader for designing initiatives that connect implementers, experts and funders across countries to build knowledge and get that knowledge into practice.