Assessing DFID’s results in nutrition

The government has beaten its goal of reaching people in some of the world’s poorest countries with nutrition services – but with malnutrition set to rise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it should do more to help the most vulnerable.

Score: Green/Amber
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 16 September 2020
  3. Type: Results review
  4. Subject: Global health
  5. Assessment: Green/Amber
  6. Location: Ethiopia, Zambia
  7. Lead commissioner: Tamsyn Barton
  8. SDGs covered:No poverty, Reduced inequalities, Zero hunger, Good health and wellbeing, Clean water and sanitation

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This ICAI review of DFID’s results in nutrition was published in September 2020 and we awarded a green-amber score, acknowledging that the government had beaten its goal of reaching people in some of the world’s poorest countries with nutrition services.


Good nutrition is a fundamental prerequisite for the development of an individual and a country. It is essential for a healthy immune system and cognitive, motor and emotional development.

Worldwide, 820 million people are ‘chronically undernourished’ – 8.9% of the world’s population is believed to be hungry.  Low- and middle-income countries have the highest burden of undernutrition. The majority of the world’s stunted and wasted children live in Asia and Africa. Those already experiencing protracted crises, including in fragile and conflict-affected states, are more vulnerable.

Nutrition interventions are consistently identified as one of the most cost-effective development actions, with significant economic returns. In recent years, significant strides have been made to ensure that tackling undernutrition is a global priority. However, underlying factors, such as limited access to sufficient and nutritious food, inappropriate maternal and childcare practices and inadequate health services – all of which are affected by social, economic and political factors – means that progress towards reducing undernutrition is stalling in the poorest countries.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is exacerbating the immediate and underlying causes of malnutrition and significantly threatens the potential for the global nutrition targets to be achieved.

This review assesses the accuracy of the results claimed by the former Department for International Development (DFID) from 2015 to 2019, and the robustness of the methodology used to calculate these results. It assesses the extent to which the nutrition portfolio targets and reaches the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach households, and the mechanisms used to understand their needs. Finally, the review assesses the impact of the nutrition programming that contributes to the reported results. This includes advocacy and technical assistance work at global and national levels, to foster action on nutrition.

Nutrition blog

Our chief commissioner and the review team published a blog considering the potential impact of COVID-19 on nutrition programmes following their country visit to Zambia in July 2020.

Read our blog

Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals relevant to this review are:

  • Sustainable Development Goal 1: No poverty
  • Sustainable Development Goal 10: Reduced inequalities
  • Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero hunger
  • Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good health and well-being
  • Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation



Published 20 December 2019

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 16 September 2020

Government response

Published 28 October 2020

Parliamentary scrutiny

IDC hearing 24 February 2021

ICAI follow-up

Published 30 June 2022