Our Work

ICAI review of DFID’s results in improving Maternal Health


Independent Commission for Aid Impact

Improving maternal health has been a longstanding objective for the UK aid programme. In 2010, DFID published its Results Framework on reproductive, maternal and newborn health, setting targets for DFID’s contribution to family planning, safe delivery and maternity services. The Framework set a headline goal of saving 50,000 women’s lives during pregnancy and childbirth by 2015.

During this time, DFID spent £4.6 billion on programmes related to reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health. Within this, £1.3 billion was spent on programmes more specifically related to family planning, reproductive health care and maternal and neonatal health. By the end of the period, DFID announced that it had achieved more than double its targets on safe delivery and maternal lives saved.

The review found that:

  • DFID developed a comprehensive Results Framework for 2011-2015 that included targets to improve maternal health.
  • DFID has been an important champion of family planning and reproductive rights at the international level, and helped to extend access to family planning to nearly 10 million women and girls during the Results Framework period. However, its maternal health portfolio was not well balanced across family planning, health services and other interventions so as to maximise impact in the medium- and long-term. In the face of severe shortages of skilled personnel, equipment and supplies, DFID has struggled to raise service quality to the extent needed to improve maternal health outcomes.
  • We were unable to confirm DFID’s global results claim on saving maternal lives, owing to shortcomings in the way it estimated the impacts of its programmes.
  • DFID’s policies prioritised reaching poor and young women but only a few programmes identified specific mechanisms or set targets for reaching these key groups. Furthermore, very few programmes disaggregated their results, making it impossible to determine the impact of DFID programming on poor, young or otherwise hard-to-reach women and girls.
  • DFID has been a strong advocate for women’s and girls’ rights internationally but could do more to reinforce this at community level in priority countries.
  • We found that DFID’s maternal health programming during the Results Framework period had a limited focus on the long-term development of health system infrastructure and institutions.
  • DFID has begun to adapt its maternal health programming in response to learning, and the design of some new programmes suggests that lessons from the Results Framework period are being applied.

Media Coverage: The Telegraph, The Guardian, Devex, Public Finance International,

Read the report

Sign up to our bulletin

Sign up to our free weekly bulletin for the latest international development news and analysis