Stunting, or chronic undernutrition defined as a low height-for-age index, is a well-established risk factor for poor child development with numerous studies showing associations between stunting and motor and cognitive development. Improving maternal and child nutrition has positive health, education, economic and gender outcomes. These benefits were consistent with the priority investments of the Australian aid program as outlined in June 2014.
Undernutrition contributes to between one-third and one-half of all deaths in children under five years of age. In 2011, 165 million children were stunted – a global prevalence of 26%. While the highest rates of stunting are in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, some countries in Southeast Asia and the Pacific have very high rates, including Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Laos, Myanmar, and Solomon Islands. Child undernutrition rates are particularly high in the Indo-Pacific region, where 90 per cent of the Australian aid program was focused as at 2014.
Australia has formally recognised the importance of increasing its response to the problem of child undernutrition, signing up to the ‘Scaling Up Nutrition’ global movement in 2013.
The purpose of this evaluation was to provide an evidence-based analysis of how the Australian aid program addressed child undernutrition, and to identify opportunities for improvement. The evaluation was commissioned to contribute to organisational learning by informing the development and/or strengthening of relevant policy, both for the aid program as a whole, and in partner countries where child undernutrition has been a significant development challenge.
- Assess how Australian aid policy and programming responded to child undernutrition in general, and particularly in selected partner countries where child undernutrition has been a significant development challenge; and
- Develop evidence-based recommendations about how the aid program could incorporate evidence and good practice principles in order to improve its response to child undernutrition.
The evaluation comprised three main exercises:
- A desk-based review of intervention effectiveness, donor policies, and child nutrition status in selected countries of interest;
- An analysis of program data from 22 Australian funded nutrition initiatives between 2011 and 2013; and
- Four case studies – one nutrition-specific activity in Pakistan and three nutrition-sensitive initiatives in Timor-Leste.
1 May 2013 - 30 April 2015
Findings from the evaluation have provided guidance to the strategic approach of the Australian aid program in addressing child undernutrition.