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: In progress
  2. Last updated: 5 May 2021
  3. Type: Rapid review
  4. Subject: Government processes and systems
  5. Lead commissioner: Sir Hugh Bayley

Latest news

We are conducting a rapid review on the UK aid response to COVID-19. We have published our approach summary paper and we’re currently gathering evidence. We expect to publish the review in Autumn 2021.


The COVID-19 pandemic led to a rapidly evolving emergency in developing countries. In some cases, healthcare infrastructure was overwhelmed. Travel restrictions and social isolation measures led to loss of livelihoods and limited access to services. Humanitarian supplies to existing emergencies were interrupted. There was extensive disruption to a wide range of development initiatives, including education and vaccinations. National economies contracted sharply, unemployment spiralled and developing countries faced sharp falls in income from tax revenues, investment, tourism and remittances, causing liquidity crisis and rising debt levels.

During 2020, the UK aid programme was reprioritised to support the UK’s international response to the COVID-19 pandemic and mobilise support for developing countries. There were two main phases of aid reprioritisation in 2020, in May and June. There was also a major reprioritisation within the DFID/FCO countries portfolio, often through the redirection of existing programmes.

This rapid review will assess how well the UK government prioritised and directed its official development assistance (ODA) in response to the pandemic



Published 5 May 2021

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Expected Autumn 2021

Further scrutiny

Details to be confirmed