United Kingdom - Nutrition

UK’s funding for basic nutrition is expected to fall 

Nutrition is historically a priority topic for the UK, but the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) ODA allocations for the financial year of 2021/22 to nutrition remain unclear. ODA funding cuts are expected to disproportionately affect allocations to nutrition. Funding for nutrition falls under the 2021 FCDO’s policy priorities of ‘Global health security’ and ‘Humanitarian preparedness and response’. The COVID-19 crisis is expected to continue putting pressure on both.


Nutrition-specific:
Interventions that address immediate causes of undernutrition and have the improvement of nutrition as their primary objective. (i.e. support for exclusive breastfeeding, supplementary feeding, etc.)

Nutrition-sensitive:
Interventions that address underlying causes of malnutrition and take into account cross-sector actions and impacts (i.e. improving access to diverse foods).


The UK committed to providing £1.8 billion (US$2.4 billion) to tackle global malnutrition over the next eight years. The announcement came as a surprise following the UK’s marked failure to make a pledge at the Nutrition for Growth Summit in December 2021, the only major donor abstaining from a pledge. While the financial commitment has been welcomed by many NGOs, many have noted disappointment; the commitment represents a considerably lower amount than what the UK spent between 2013- 2020, which is estimated to have been between £2.6 billion (US$3.5 billion) and £5 billion (US$6.7 billion).

The UK spent US$167 million or less than 1% of its total ODA on basic nutrition in 2019, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) data. ODA funding for basic nutrition has fluctuated from US$96 million in 2015, peaking to US$194 million in 2017, only to decrease to 2019 levels. The former Department for International Development (DFID) was responsible for nutrition programs in low-income countries. DFID’s total ODA spend on nutrition-related projects amounted to US$888 million in 2018, according to the 2020 MQSUN+ Report. Nutrition-related projects included ODA spend on both nutrition-specific (US$160 million) and nutrition-sensitive (US$729million) projects.

In September 2020, the UK launched the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) by merging the former Department for International Development (DFID) with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The FCDO has not updated its nutrition commitments since 2017. In 2015, DFID committed “to improve the nutrition of 50 million people by 2020” and updated its strategies toward that overarching goal in 2017 with the position paper ‘Saving lives, investing in future generations and building prosperity – the UK’s Global Nutrition Position Paper’. The paper outlines prioritized nutritional support during the ‘1000-day window’ from conception to two years of age, as well as the prevention of “the most severe forms of undernutrition” in children under five.

The FCDO is responsible for shaping the UK’s policy on nutrition in developing countries

The FCDO is responsible for decision-making on nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programs in low-income countries. Within partner countries, former DFID sought to promote multi-sectoral, integrated programs relating to nutrition. The nutrition team is housed within the global health team within the FCDO.