Statement on the £120m UKRI funding cut by Professor Claire Heffernan

Published: 17th March 2021

Statement on the £120m UKRI funding cut by Professor Claire Heffernan, PI of the Action Against Stunting Hub and Director of the London International Development Centre


Evidence-based intervention is key to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The drastic UKRI budget cuts – announced on 11 March – are jeopardising our chances to obtain these goals. The pandemic has crystalised the need for global research collaboration, yet the UK government is choosing to reduce funding for international development research by nearly 50% at this crucial point in time. These cuts are a direct consequence of the decision of reducing UK’s aid budget from 0.7 to 0.5% of GNI. What looks like a quick fix towards balancing budgets today will translate into long-term costs to be borne by the world’s most vulnerable for decades to come.


The UKRI GCRF Action Against Stunting Hub was set up in 2019 to tackle the wicked problem of child stunting. With our partners in Indonesia, Senegal and India, we are researching the drivers of stunting and using a ‘whole child’ approach to solve a problem that affected 144 million children in 2019. They will grow up to live shorter lives in worse health and without reaching their full economic and cognitive potential. Without cracking the code of child malnutrition, new generations of children will face the same gloomy prospects as those who have already grown up without sufficient and nutritious food in the past. We need to break out of the cycle where stunted girls grow up to have children affected by the exact same problems with nutrition that they themselves faced.


“Child stunting is a preventable scourge with life-long effects on the children affected. Interdisciplinary research is currently the only tool in our toolbox to unravel complex, multi-faced problems.”


The Action Against Stunting brings together 150 researchers from 18 institutions in India, Senegal, Indonesia and the UK. Since the start, we have built an interdisciplinary community based on equity, collaboration and knowledge sharing. Our partners in the field have built trust among pregnant women and their communities, which is essential for data collection. Building trust takes time but is easily eroded.


“Research is not a disposable item in a world filled with intractable problems. Solving critical global challenges such as child stunting takes years of concerted, joined-up efforts. Partnerships destroyed at the stroke of a pen will take years to rebuild. Leaving the world’s 144million children behind.”