Background: The majority of Countdown countries did not reach the fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG 4) on reducing child mortality, despite the fact that donor funding to the health sector has drastically increased. When tracking aid invested in child survival, previous studies have exclusively focused on aid targeting reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health (RMNCH). We take a multi-sectoral approach and extend the estimation to the four sectors that determine child survival: health (RMNCH and non-RMNCH), education, water and sanitation, and food and humanitarian assistance (Food/HA). Methods and findings: Using donor reported data, obtained mainly from the OECD Creditor Reporting System and Development Assistance Committee, we tracked the level and trends of aid (in grants or loans) disbursed to each of the four sectors at the global, regional, and country levels. We performed detailed analyses on missing data and conducted imputation with various methods. To identify aid projects for RMNCH, we developed an identification strategy that combined keyword searches and manual coding. To quantify aid for RMNCH in projects with multiple purposes, we adopted an integrated approach and produced the lower and upper bounds of estimates for RMNCH, so as to avoid making assumptions or using weak evidence for allocation. We checked the sensitivity of trends to the estimation methods and compared our estimates to that produced by other studies. Our study yielded time-series and recipient-specific annual estimates of aid disbursed to each sector, as well as their lower- and upper-bounds in 134 countries between 2000 and 2014, with a specific focus on Countdown countries. We found that the upper-bound estimates of total aid disbursed to the four sectors in 134 countries rose from US$ 22.62 billion in 2000 to US$ 59.29 billion in 2014, with the increase occurring in all income groups and regions with sub-Saharan Africa receiving the largest sum. Aid to RMNCH has experienced the fastest growth (12.4%), followed by aid to Food/HA (9.4%), education (5.1%), and water and sanitation (5.0%). With the exception of RMNCH, the average per capita aid disbursed to each sector in the 74 Countdown countries was smaller than in non-Countdown countries. While countries with a large number of child deaths tend to receive the largest amount of disbursements, non- Countdown countries with small populations usually received the highest level of per capita aid for child survival among all 134 countries. Compared to other Countdown countries, those that met MDG 4 with a high reliance on health aid received much higher per capita aid across all sectors. These findings are robust to estimation methods. Conclusions: The study suggests that to improve child survival, better targeted investments should be made in the four sectors, and aid to non-health sectors could be a possible contributor to child mortality reduction. We recommend that future studies on tracking aid for child survival go beyond the health sector and include other sectors that directly affect child survival. Investigation should also be made about the link between aid to each of the four sectors and child mortality reduction.
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