Development Initiatives background briefing
Analysis released at the launch of UAMH: UK urged to prioritise malnutrition and hunger as numbers facing crisis levels of food insecurity double

New figures published to coincide with the launch of UAMH 1 March 2023 revealed the number of people at crisis levels of food insecurity nearly doubled from 146 million in 2019 to 278 million in 2022.

The analysis highlights the overwhelming economic case for action to treat and prevent chronic malnutrition, showing a return of over 10 times on investment in nutrition specific interventions.

United Against Malnutrition and Hunger brings together leaders from scientific, business, finance, military, diplomatic, faith, philanthropic and civil society backgrounds to champion action from the UK.

Top-line messages and evidence points: 

Malnutrition is set to get even worse as the world faces record levels of food insecurity. 

● New analysis by Development Initiatives shows that between 2019 and 2022, the number of people living in countries affected by humanitarian crisis and experiencing crisis levels of 
food insecurity almost doubled from 146 million in 2019 to 278 million in 2022. 

● The number of people affected by hunger globally rose to as many as 828 million in 2021, an increase of about 46 million since 2020 and 150 million since 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic. We are already in a protracted global nutrition crisis. 

● Nearly half of all deaths in children under five are caused by undernutrition and a quarter of all adult deaths are attributable to poor diets.

● According to the latest data, nearly one in four (22.0%) of children under five are stunted, and progress on stunting was slowing even before recent crises. 

● An estimated 45 million children under the age of five were suffering from wasting, the deadliest form of malnutrition, which increases children’s risk of death by up to 12 times. Furthermore, 149 million children under the age of five had stunted growth and development due to a chronic lack of essential nutrients in their diets.

● The prevalence of anaemia among women of reproductive age is rising, having consistently decreased between 2000 to 2011. While the causes of anaemia are not only attributable to dietary intake, it is highly worrying to see this trend occurring even before Covid-19, which we know will considerably increase the prevalence. 

● Poor diets are not only causing ill-health, but the current global food demand is also producing more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions, with no region having a diet that is sustainable for the environment.  The UK has been instrumental in mobilising unprecedented global action on 
nutrition, yet is stepping back when it is needed most. 

● The UK was the main driving force behind the global Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Compact in 2013, which accelerated global funding for nutrition. 

● Between 2016 and 2021, the UK was the largest Development Assistance Committee (DAC) country donor of nutrition-specific7 official development assistance (ODA). 

● Between 2013 and 2020, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) had cumulatively disbursed around US$6.8 billion (around £5 billion) of ODA for nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive projects.  

● But in 2021, UK nutrition-specific aid funding dropped significantly, to its lowest level since before 2012. The US$51 million provided in 2021 was just 40% of the amount provided the year before (US$126 million in 2020).

● FCDO has retained a dedicated nutrition and nutrition policy team who will continue to coordinate and deliver nutrition-specific programmes. 

● Looking ahead, the UK’s new N4G commitment (made in 2021) is to deliver a much lower £1.5 billion between 2022 and 2030. There is no explicit target for nutrition-specific spending and no apparent separate nutrition budget, such that this target can be realised only by spending through other sectors.

Photo: WFP_Awadh