COVID-19 Funding Insights Using IATI
15 September 2021
The OCHA Centre for Humanitarian Data has been tracking financial commitments, spending and funding flows for the COVID-19 pandemic using the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standard. IATI is a global initiative to improve the transparency of development and humanitarian aid. Of the over 1,300 organizations who participate in the initiative, 201 used the standard to publish data on their COVID-19 spending.
We have created an IATI COVID-19 Funding Dashboard with financial transactions from 13,780 reported aid activities covering the period from January 2020 until the present (the data is updated daily). Here, we offer a few insights about the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and about how organizations are using IATI to share their data. The visuals in this story show a snapshot of data as of 15 September 2021, and all amounts are in US dollars.
IATI publishers shared COVID-19 data quickly
The IATI secretariat released COVID-19 publishing guidance in April 2020. Soon after, organizations began using it, flagging their COVID-19-related activities using the IATI standard. As of September 2021, 201 organizations had published their COVID-19 funding data, with $134.5 billion in commitments and $84.8 billion in spending directed towards 200 recipient countries and territories. Over half of the IATI publishers sharing COVID-19-related funding data identified themselves as NGOs.
Multilaterals tend to publish their commitments quarterly
IATI publishing organizations share data on both commitments (promises of funding) and spending (actual disbursements to other organizations or direct expenditures). The data shows that multilateral funding commitments are not spread evenly over time, but tend to cluster near the end of each quarter.
Multilaterals reported more commitments than governments, even though much of their funding comes from these donors. This suggests that many upstream government donors are not publishing their commitments in advance of their spending.
Some recipient countries have significant gaps between commitments and spending
When organizations publish their commitments and spending data in IATI, they often specify which country or countries each financial transaction is destined for. It is normal to have some gap between commitment and eventual spending, but according to the IATI COVID-19 data, that gap is not evenly distributed across countries.
The first 5 countries in the chart — Egypt, Angola, Nigeria, Turkey, and Guatemala — have received 20% or less of what has been committed to them. By comparison, the last 5 countries — Ecuador, Myanmar, Kenya, Niger, and Kazakhstan — have received 80% or more. (See the latest data on commitments and spending in the live dashboard).
COVID-19 spending goes to many different sectors
IATI publishers are able to categorize their commitments and spending by sector. We found that nearly 90% of COVID-19-related spending was tied to a sector. Following the high-level OECD sector groups, ‘Health’ was in first place, but represented only 25% of the total, with ‘Government and Civil Society’ (19%) and ‘Other Social Infrastructure & Services’ (18%) close behind. This points to the complex impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which goes beyond direct health issues like hospitalization and vaccination to unemployment and budget shortfalls for infrastructure and public services.
Looking specifically at health-related funding, we see that it goes in sharp spikes. The earlier spikes may correspond to donor spending on vaccination research, and the later ones to vaccination programmes in vulnerable countries. However, because there is no sector code specifically for vaccination, the IATI data alone does not contain enough information to confirm this. The spikes may also be influenced by the preference for end-of-quarter publishing by multilaterals that we noted above.
Funding flows are often incomplete in IATI
To improve transparency, IATI publishers can report on their upstream funders and their downstream implementing partners. The Dutch NGO Cordaid, for example, shares their financial flows in both directions. This is IATI best practice.
Most multilaterals and NGOs have financial flows in both directions, but often they do not record one of the two groups in their IATI publications. In this example, the World Health Organization (WHO) categorizes most of its outgoing financial flows as direct expenditures, rather than listing the partner organizations that received them, so there is no downstream traceability. The WHO is not unique in this omission. Because many of the IATI publishers do not list either their upstream or downstream funding partners, it is not possible to trace funding flows, from origin to the final implementing partners.