Australia - Nutrition

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade links nutrition to several major development priorities

Australia considers nutrition a development challenge linked to its major policy priorities such as health and agriculture and therefore takes a multisectoral approach to addressing nutrition. Australia’s government has not developed a strategic framework for nutrition policies; rather, nutrition is integrated into both the agriculture and health strategy documents.

In ‘Strategy for Australia’s Aid Investment in Agriculture, Fisheries and Water’ (2015), enhancing food, nutrition, and water security are identified as major contributors to promoting prosperity, reducing poverty, and strengthening stability in partner countries.

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) reinforces 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 official development assistance (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

According to data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Creditor Reporting System (CRS), Australia disbursed only US$4 million to nutrition-specific projects in 2019 ( projects that are reported to the OECD Creditor’s Reporting System database under the ‘basic nutrition’ purpose code). This is a decline compared to 2018 (US$11 million) but remains above 2017 funding levels (US$1 million). Most of these funds went to Afghanistan (US$3 million) as part of Australia’s humanitarian action there.


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).


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.