Image by UNICEF/Olivier Asselin
  • Blog
  • 29 June 2023

What’s changing about the UK’s efforts on global nutrition?

New analysis lays bare the dramatic scaling back of the UK’s efforts on global nutrition. What does this mean for the UK’s engagement on this agenda moving forwards?

Written by Anna Hope

External Relations & Marketing Lead

Every year, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) commissions independent analysis of the official development assistance (ODA) it provides towards tackling global malnutrition. This analysis has become a mainstay of its efforts, since it provides important insights about where funding is going, emerging trends and how delivery against UK commitments on nutrition is shaping up.

This year’s report looks at 2021 spending (the latest available data) and confirms a truly disappointing picture for the UK’s support to global nutrition, particularly given its leadership and financial contributions over the last decade. A reduction was expected and the scaled back commitments that were seen through the Nutrition for Growth (N4G) process at the end of 2021 did not go unnoticed. However, the report confirms that the significant cut to the UK’s overall aid budget and changing priorities in the last few years have hit nutrition particularly hard. It is of course important to remember that the UK is still a significant donor to global nutrition even after these reductions, and following a change in political leadership, there have been signals of a desire to get nutrition back on the agenda. While the UK’s leadership on global nutrition has declined, it is certainly not turning its back entirely.

What are the numbers for 2021 showing?

The report reveals that between 2020 and 2021, FCDO reduced nutrition ODA by 61.3% to US$441.6 million (see Figure 1). A lower proportion of the UK’s total ODA was allocated to nutrition, and there were large reductions in both nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive spending. We also see the lowest number of nutrition-related programmes funded since 2010, following three consecutive years of reductions.

Figure 1. FCDO's total aid spending for nutrition reduced to US$441.6 million in 2021

Figure 1. FCDO's total aid spending for nutrition reduced to US$441.6 million in 2021

Bar chart showing FCDO's total aid spending for nutrition reduced to US$441.6 million in 2021

Notes: Based on gross ODA disbursements. Constant 2021 prices. Source: Development Initiatives’ calculations based on DAC CRS data.

There is no doubt that the UK’s declining support for global nutrition is a blow, and at a time when it is especially needed. It is however of some comfort to hear clear and explicit support for global nutrition in recent months from The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, Minister of State (Development and Africa). In response to the report and its findings, he provided the following response:

“The UK’s new vision for development will mean we use all our resources, tools and partnerships to help protect the world’s poorest and the most vulnerable, including through championing lifesaving nutrition support. Britain remains committed to being a world leader on nutrition and will continue to place nutrition amongst our highest development priorities.

The FCDO will continue to report our annual nutrition spend and review progress every year with our commitment to spend at least £1.5bn on supporting nutrition from 2022–2030.

The decrease in ODA spend on nutrition interventions in 2021 reflects the difficult decision to temporarily reduce ODA spend from 0.7% of GNI to 0.5% due to the economic impacts of COVID-19.

As set out in the 2023 Integrated Review Refresh, the UK will:

  • lead a campaign to improve global food security and nutrition; and
  • push to increase the availability, affordability and quality of malnutrition treatment and prevention products.

We will also:

  • convene an event in November to bring together British and international expertise in tackling hunger and starvation with the support of the academic, medical, research, philanthropic, and NGO and charity community; and we will
  • continue to integrate nutrition objectives across our ODA portfolio and continue to score FCDO investments using the OECD DAC Nutrition Policy Marker which FCDO formally adopted in 2022.”