Last week, the APPG on Nutrition for Growth met with the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) to discuss how the FCDO can maximise the impact of its nutrition programmes. At the meeting, Tamsyn Barton, ICAI’s Chief Commissioner, and Jonathan France, ICAI’s Team Leader, presented their recent review of DFID-FCDO’s nutrition work.

ICAI told us that, on the whole, they were impressed by FCDO’s nutrition programmes. While they gave a Green/Amber score, they said that the review was “more green than amber.”

ICAI said that they were impressed by the FCDO’s ability to reach remote locations. Tamsyn recalled a visit to a remote river island in Zambia where the FCDO’s nutrition programmes literally saved lives.

ICAI told us that the FCDO had improved their methodology for assessing the results of their programmes since ICAI’s last review in 2014. As a result, the FCDO are able to accurately capture details of how many people they have reached with nutrition services.

Finally, ICAI praised the FCDO for raising global ambition for improving nutrition. By hosting the Nutrition for Growth summit in 2013 and stepping up as a major donor to nutrition in the years since, the UK has unrivalled convening power and is able to catalyse funds for nutrition from other donors and domestic governments.

ICAI identified three areas for improvement that could lead to the FCDO being scored green in their next review:

Firstly, convergence. The FCDO must do a better job of aligning its nutrition programmes and objectives with other aspects of its work. For example, in Ethiopia, ICAI saw social security payments going to farmers who used those payments to grow nutritious crops. By converging their social security, nutrition and agriculture programmes in this way, the FCDO were able to create lasting change across a range of sectors with a relatively small amount of funding.  However, examples like this tend to be small scale and uncommon.

Secondly, equity. While the FCDO are very good at reaching remote places, they could improve on reaching the most vulnerable people. For example, while the FCDO was able to reach a remote island in Zambia, they were not very effective at reaching migrant women in Ethiopia who are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition.

Finally, coordination. To maximise its impact, the FCDO should more effectively coordinate with other agencies. With closer coordination, different agencies can more strategically cover different population groups or prioritise different interventions. In addition, the FCDO should coordinate more effectively with the private sector. For example, the International Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes can only be upheld with private sector buy in.

ICAI will conduct a follow up review in 2022. We hope the FCDO will adopt the recommendations above.