Australia - Nutrition

DFAT links nutrition to several major development priorities

Australia’s government has not developed a strategic framework for nutrition policies. It considers nutrition a development challenge that is linked to its major policy priorities such as health and agriculture. Nutrition is integrated into both the health and agriculture strategy documents. The ‘Health for Development Strategy 2015-2020’ refers to nutrition as a crucial “pre-condition for good health” and has combined it with its water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) strategic priority area. It is mentioned under the priority area “Investments in improved access to WASH and nutrition”. This focus area emphasizes nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life for all children and, for girls, additionally during adolescence. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) reinforce this emphasis with two operational guidance notes, ‘Nutrition in Australia’s aid program’ and ‘Nutrition and health in Australia’s aid program’, published in 2015. DFAT also published a report in 2015, ‘A window of opportunity: Australian aid and child undernutrition’, that found Australia allocated most ODA to nutrition-sensitive interventions, and that Australia’s nutrition interventions were largely aligned with best practices.

In the newly released ‘Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response’ policy (launched May 2020), food security is named among the issues DFAT plans to tackle as part of its effort to help Australia’s neighbors deal with the immediate and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Food security is nested under the banner of ‘Stability’ (along with governance, education, violence against women, and social protection), the second of the new policy’s three pillars.

Nutrition is also integrated into the agriculture strategy, ‘Strategy for Australia’s Aid Investment in Agriculture, Fisheries and Water’. Enhancing food, nutrition, and water security are identified as major contributors to promoting prosperity, reducing poverty, and strengthening stability in partner countries.


Nutrition-specific: Interventions that address immediate causes of undernutrition and have the improvement of nutrition (i.e., support for exclusive breastfeeding, supplementary feeding, etc.) as their primary objective.

Nutrition-sensitive: Interventions that address underlying causes of malnutrition and that take into account cross-sector actions and impacts (i.e., improving access to diverse foods).


Australia’s funding for basic nutrition rose dramatically in 2018, a turnaround after many years of declining nutrition-related ODA

According to data from the OECD Creditor Reporting System (CRS), Australia disbursed US$11 million to nutrition-specific projects in 2018, a huge increase from the US$1 million spent in this area in 2017, and a turnaround from the steady decline in Australia’s funding for nutrition in recent years. (These are projects that are reported to the OECD Creditor’s Reporting System database under the ‘basic nutrition’ purpose code.). Most of these funds went to Afghanistan (US$8 million) and Pakistan (US$2 million), both of which increased from around US$740,000 in 2017. These increases were likely driven by the program strategies in each country, both of which give nutrition a high priority.

All US$8 million spent in Afghanistan, went toward a grant for ‘Humanitarian Action in Afghanistan’, which “provides urgent food security, protection, health and education support to vulnerable communities” (e.g., women and girls, disabled populations, internally displaced people, and those affected by conflict or natural disasters). Funding is sourced from the bilateral budget and Humanitarian Emergency Fund and channeled through UN partners.

The US$2 million spent on basic nutrition in Pakistan, was disbursed to the ‘World Bank World Bank's Multi-Donor Trust Fund: Partnership for Nutrition’. This program supports nutrition interventions implemented by provincial governments that target children and mothers in Pakistan.

In addition, according to self-reported data in the Global Nutrition Report for 2018, Australia disbursed US$136 million to nutrition-sensitive interventions in 2016. Australia reports data to the Global Nutrition Report biennially.

DFAT leads policy development and decision-making in this sector

Nutrition financing policies and decision-making processes are spread across development areas, reflecting Australia’s cross-sectoral perspective. Policy development and decision-making in these fields (e.g., health and agriculture) are led by DFAT and implemented by the respective governmental agencies.