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MPs praise UK nutrition work but ask if progress can endure

21 July 2021

MPs on a House of Commons Select Sub-Committee have welcomed a positive review of the UK foreign aid programme’s work on nutrition. But they raised questions about whether those achievements can endure, particularly as the review predicted the Covid-19 pandemic would cause a “huge increase in the number of people facing hunger and malnutrition”.

The Sub-Committee on the Work of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) is a group of MPs who review the work of ICAI, an aid watchdog which monitors the UK foreign aid programme. The MPs welcomed ICAI’s recent positive assessment that the UK aid programme had reached over 50 million people in poorer countries with nutrition services between 2015 and 2020.

Since the review of nutrition services was carried out, the main government administrator of UK foreign aid, the Department for International Development, has been merged into the newly formed Foreign, Commonwealth the Development Office (FCDO). The MPs’ Sub-Committee said it would encourage the FCDO to prioritise work on nutrition.

The Chair of the Sub-Committee on the work of ICAI, Theo Clarke MP, said:

“The UK’s work on nutrition has saved millions of lives across the world. I pay tribute to the hard work and leadership that has been carried out.

“The current economic circumstances mean that difficult choices have to be made. However, the UK’s strong performance shows this is an area in which to build on the positive progress made to date. I encourage the FCDO to prioritise the eradication of malnutrition and to keep up the good work done so far”.


While welcoming the thrust of DFID’s work, the MPs also called for improvements in the way data on nutrition was gathered. They urged the government to set out what actions it would be taking from now on to improve nutrition in developing countries, in particular where it forms part of a response to Covid-19.

The Sub Committee also recommended that the government focuses, in its nutrition aid programmes, on the quality of food as well as the quantity. In doing so, the MPs said, the FCDO should work where possible with the private sector, which, they said, can play a key role when integrated into aid efforts.

The Committee regretted that some of the partners (mainly aid agencies) delivering UK nutrition programmes did not know what the spending on their programmes would be in 2021-22. This, the MPs said, was ‘unhelpful’.

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