The UK aid response to COVID-19

This review examines the prioritisation and redirection of UK aid in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 21 October 2021
  3. Type: Rapid review
  4. Subject: Government processes and systems
  5. Location: Pakistan, Sudan, Zambia
  6. Lead commissioner: Sir Hugh Bayley

Read the approach summary paper

Our approach

This rapid review explores the cross-government architecture established to manage the UK’s aid response and assess the UK government’s efforts to develop a coherent and strategic response across aid-spending departments. It assesses the evidence and criteria used to inform choices about which investments and funding channels to prioritise, covering the UK’s aid response to COVID-19 from January 2020 to May 2021.

It follows ICAI’s earlier information note, published in December 2020, about how the government managed aid procurement processes in the early stages of the pandemic, and complements two other ICAI reviews: a review of the management of the 0.7% ODA spending target in 2020 and a planned in-depth review of humanitarian aspects of the UK government’s COVID-19 response.

The review provides timely insights and policy recommendations to inform the continued response to the pandemic.

Review questions

We sought to answer the following review questions:

  1. Relevance: How credible has the UK aid response to COVID-19 been so far?
  2. Coherence: How coherent has the UK aid response to the COVID-19 pandemic been so far?
  3. Efficiency: How efficiently did the UK reallocate aid resources in response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the central and country programme levels?


Read the annotated bibliography



Published 5 May 2021

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 21 October 2021

Government response

Expected December 2021

ICAI follow-up

Details to be confirmed

Further scrutiny

Details to be confirmed