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Nutrition for Growth Summit 2024

Volume 834: debated on Wednesday 29 November 2023


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with international counterparts ahead of the Nutrition for Growth Summit in Paris in 2024.

My Lords, the UK works closely with France and other partners to promote the integration of nutrition across multiple sectors and into multilateral programmes to increase financing for nutrition and build momentum ahead of the next nutrition for growth summit. Last week’s global food security summit and last month’s UK-France development dialogue are examples of our continued partnership on global development. We will continue to work with France to ensure that it is a success.

My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s response, and I agree that we have got some positive action here with the summit, which I attended. But the International Coalition for Advocacy on Nutrition has published its stock-take report on nutrition, which showed that the cuts to ODA disproportionately affected our spending on nutrition. Of course, we know that nutrition is a multiplier in addressing all the SDGs. So I hope the Minister can reassure us that we will be sticking to our £1.5 billion pledge over eight years. Can he tell us how much of that will be spent on nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programming? Finally, can he reassure us that, in advance of Paris, he will work with civil society and NGOs in preparation for that success? The UK has been a leader in this field and I hope we can return to that situation pretty soon.

On the latter point, I can absolutely assure the noble Lord that we are working very closely with civil society—the International Coalition for Advocacy on Nutrition is just one example. I can also reassure him that, as a proportion of our various objectives and interventions, we are seeing an increase in health programmes that are nutrition-sensitive and an increase in humanitarian aid that is nutrition-sensitive. Also, in water, sanitation and health, we are increasing the proportion that we give in ODA money to nutrition and also to climate: we have recently doubled our international climate fund spending, and an increased proportion of that is on nutrition. The £1.5 billion is a floor, not a ceiling, and I hope that, when we can return to the higher levels of spending on ODA, the noble Lord will see yet more increases in this important area.

The Minister will be well aware that millions of children still die of acute malnutrition every year. I come back to a specific figure here. When will the Government restore the funding to the global nutrition budget, which they cut by 60% in 2021? When will they do that?

We are reviewing the £1.5 billion next year and we may see increases as a result of that review. Funding for child wasting, the deadliest form of malnutrition, is insufficient across the whole world, and unsustainable. Only a quarter of wasted children receive treatment and, while 75% of cases are outside of emergencies, 60% of funding is through unpredictable, short-term humanitarian channels. We have focused a lot of our spending on recent crises and want to make sure that we are also integrating it right across our donor funding streams.

My Lords, the Minister will know that nutrition-sensitive funding is extremely broad. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked what proportion was nutrition-specific funding, which is the most impactful element that will have the most meaningful effect. What proportion of the funding that the Minister outlined is actually nutrition-specific funding on nutrition programmes, rather than the very general funding that is nutrition-sensitive?

I tried to address the point when I responded to the noble Lord who asked the Question. I can give the noble Lord more specific details if he wishes. From 2020 to 2021, the proportion of health programmes that were nutrition-sensitive and nutrition-specific rose respectively from 20% to 23% and from 23% to 24%. Other areas, for example water, sanitation and hygiene, are crucial, because if children are suffering from other ailments, they cannot possibly start to recover the body weight that they need. That proportion has increased from 17% to 37%, and I am very happy to give the noble Lord more details if he wishes.

Following on from the question from the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, about overseas aid, is it not better, when considering reinstatement of the 0.7% target, that we look, as the Canadians do, at a project-based system that focuses on the most acute need, which will deliver the best value for our taxpayer funding and will retain strong public support?

I understand the point made by my noble friend and I would refer him to the White Paper that we published last week, which has been widely accepted by those who really understand these issues as a good attempt to try to integrate issues such as nutrition in so many different areas. We have to carry the public with us. Very often, when you ask in a public meeting what percentage people think that we spend on overseas aid, they give you a vastly greater amount than we actually do. We need to explain that it is going to change people’s lives and, hopefully, make economies better, reduce the need for people to migrate and keep stability. There are so many different strands to this, and we need to make that case, which was eloquently made in the White Paper.

My Lords, to coincide with last year’s Commonwealth Games, there was also the Commonwealth food futures 2022 summit, to discuss exactly these issues. Can the Minister tell us what other international organisations the Government are working with to ensure that we really improve the nutrition of the very poorest and most needy on this planet?

We think that the nutrition for growth dialogue on an annual basis, holding ourselves to account, is really important. We co-hosted the global food security summit, which was held last week in Lancaster House, with Somalia and the United Arab Emirates. The nutrition for growth proposal is that the next meeting should take place in Paris. We are working very closely with the French on this. My colleague, Andrew Mitchell, has met with them and with the director general, Melinda Bohannon, to try to work out how we can make this next phase really effective. In the short time that I have been in the department, I have seen how transparent we are in the quantities that we give and how we explain it. I hope that noble Lords will look at the White Paper and see how we are working with so many other different parties, particularly civil society, in achieving this.

My Lords, the Minister will be aware of the good work being done by Gavi on vaccination across the world. However, is he aware that Gavi is now aware of the link between vaccination effectiveness and nutrition in children? Undernourished children do not have as beneficial a response to the vaccination as they should. That is why Gavi has now linked the two things in its campaigning. Will the Government support that?

The noble Baroness says much more eloquently what I was trying to say earlier. If you deal with various other health outcomes, you have a much better chance of getting a sustained improvement, for children in particular. I absolutely agree with what she says and I am very happy to work with Gavi on this.

My Lords, following on from the previous question, can the Minister tell the House how the Government do the metrics to ensure that the impacts of the nutrition programmes are as effective as they could be, particularly, for example, in areas of health? Can he give us some indication of how that is done? I have not read the White Paper, admittedly.

The White Paper seeks to set out how we hold ourselves accountable to the amounts of ODA that we give and to which areas. I cannot, particularly in a short moment here—even if I knew it—give the noble Lord the details of the metrics, but I urge him to look at the White Paper and, if he still requires information, I would be very happy to arrange for him to meet officials or to write to him.

My Lords, will the Minister look favourably on the work—and applaud the work—done by non-governmental organisations in the third world in this regard? I had the privilege, with a number of colleagues more than 10 years ago, to travel with Nestlé to see the work it was doing in Africa in regard to the provision of nutrition, water and sanitation. Will he applaud the work that it does, together with Governments, in this regard?

Non-governmental organisations and those who work for them do heroic work in some of the most difficult parts of the world. We recently debated in this House the situation in Sudan and South Sudan. One of the difficulties that we have is getting people on to the ground, getting them visas and getting them safely to places where they can deliver aid. NGOs, faith-based organisations and civil society are absolutely vital for the effective implementation of overseas development aid.