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UK Aid: Nutrition-sensitive Programmes

Volume 801: debated on Monday 13 January 2020

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of UK Aid’s nutrition-sensitive programmes, and what steps they are taking to ensure that high-impact nutrition sensitivity is embedded across UK Aid’s portfolio.

My Lords, DfID reviews and assesses programming on an annual basis and, since hosting the 2013 Nutrition for Growth summit, we have exceeded our commitment to invest in nutrition-sensitive programmes. Where possible, we integrate nutrition objectives into our work on health, social protection, climate adaptation and agriculture, all of which is essential for tackling the underlying causes of malnutrition. We will continue to work to embed high-impact nutrition sensitivity across UK aid’s portfolio.

I thank the Minister for that response and certainly welcome the Government’s actions since 2013. I declare an interest as vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on nutrition. The OECD policy marker on nutrition provides an opportunity to better capture the impact of DfID’s nutrition-sensitive programmes. Although approved, it has not been incorporated into DfID’s reporting systems. Can the Minister ensure that this is done, to improve accountability and outcomes for both nutrition and DfID’s wider objectives?

My Lords, the UK has been a proud global leader on nutrition since hosting the summit in 2013. Since 2015 we have reached more than 60 million women, adolescent girls and young children with nutrition services in 25 countries. The noble Lord is right to point out the advantage of the new OECD policy marker. Indeed, the UK worked with donors and other Governments to develop the guidance for that marker and supported its adoption at the OECD. The new marker gives a big improvement in our ability to track aid spending on nutrition. We are exploring options to ensure that we use that policy marker to its best effect in DfID.

My Lords, the Government are doing some excellent work on nutrition and there is a very expert team in DfID. I co-chair the APPG on Nutrition for Growth and, as my noble friend the Minister knows, there is to be a summit in Tokyo later in the year. Will she agree to meet me and other members of the APPG to discuss Her Majesty’s Government’s commitments to the summit?

My Lords, I pay tribute to the work of my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Collins, in co-chairing the APPG, an important body. Our current commitments to nutrition will come to an end in 2020, so the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth summit in December will really be a key moment in making sure that progress continues. We have bold ambitions for the summit. We are working closely with the Government of Japan to ensure that it is a success. We are looking to strengthen health systems, to come up with longer-term funding and to ensure that Governments, donors and businesses take positive action to improve access to nutritious and sustainable diets. I would be delighted to come along to the APPG with officials to provide further briefing.

My Lords, last year the Government made an announcement of £61 million to be invested in supporting crops that can help to prevent food insecurity as a result of climate change. Such climate-resilient crops really should pack a punch and contribute well to a healthy, nutritious diet, so will the Minister commit to ensuring that nutrition sensitivity is embedded throughout DfID’s climate and food and agriculture portfolio?

My Lords, climate modelling shows that the additional deaths that will stem from climate change will be largely due to undernutrition, so it is absolutely right that we focus on this. There are two ways in which we need to do that: through both the quantity of food available—we are looking at investing in flood-tolerant rice and drought-tolerant maize, for example—and the quality, ensuring that healthier, nutritious diets are affordable and accessible. We are looking at nutrient-rich, biofortified staples such as vitamin A-enriched sweet potato or zinc-enriched maize. We will continue to ensure that we invest properly in new agricultural technologies so that the quality of the diet is available as well as the quantity.

My Lords, does the Minister agree with me that good nutrition is far easier to achieve in smaller than in larger families? Will she therefore renew the Government’s pledge to concentrate on delivering voluntary family planning to as many women in the world as possible? There are still 220 million women in the world who cannot access family planning.

My Lords, malnutrition affects women and girls more seriously, and I will be delighted to reaffirm the commitment to ensuring that we are able to give women and girls across the world access to voluntary family planning when and how they need it.

My Lords, we on these Benches of course welcome the commitment made in the Queen’s Speech for 12 years of education for girls. We know that malnutrition hits girls and women rather more than men, to the extent that girls are sometimes so malnourished that they are unable to attend education. What plans do the Government have to deal with that?

As the noble Baroness highlights, we are committed to helping poor countries provide 12 years of good-quality education, particularly for girls. She is also right to point out that, to learn, children need the right nutrients. Malnutrition prevents many girls attending school and hinders the potential of those who do. We are committed to ensuring that we deliver early education and nutrition interventions together, and our DfID 2018 education policy states that. When children get the basic nutrition they need in the first 1,000 days of life, they do better at school and earn more as adults.

My Lords, without good nutrition at key points in a child’s growth, it is impossible for them to develop a healthy immune system, and, nowadays, malnutrition is the number one cause of TB worldwide. I know that a lot of DfID’s work is channelled through multilaterals, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Will the Government give us an assurance that they will deal effectively with malnutrition, so that the impact these organisations have can be maximised?

My Lords, I am very happy to give that commitment. In our engagement with all the global funds, we have championed the need to focus more on prevention and addressing the underlying causes of AIDS, TB and malaria, as part of an integrated approach to universal health coverage. That includes addressing malnutrition. We also provided an additional £50 million of funding to the Global Financing Facility, which was contingent on demonstrating a strong commitment to nutrition, as well as other health issues. We will continue to champion this issue and influence the approach taken by all our multilateral partners.