Health is one of Italy’s development priorities; strong support to multilateral health organizations

Following years of budget cuts, Italy’s ODA to global health is currently still low. In 2015, it contributed US$239 million to health ODA, remaining stable from 2014 contributions. As Italy’s total ODA rose, the proportion going to global health went down from 7% to 6%. This is lower than the average health ODA spend of other members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC; 9%). Health has been a priority for Italy’s development policy in the past, and has been reaffirmed as a strategic priority in the Programming Guidelines and Directions for Italian Development Cooperation 2016-2018. Within health, Italy places a focus on health system strengthening (HSS), research and development, strengthening of capacities to respond to epidemics, and maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH).

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As with the rest of its ODA, Italy delivers most of its health ODA multilaterally (68% in 2015, US$162 million), despite seeing a sharp decline since 2014 (when multilateral health ODA was still 76%). Health is a key sector of its multilateral engagement. After years of cuts, Italy has stepped up its funding to multilateral organizations working on health. The largest share of multilateral funding went as binding contributions to the European Union. Italy resumed funding to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) in 2014 – to which it had stopped contributing since 2009 because of the economic crisis – leading to a significant increase in health ODA between 2013 and 2014. At the Fifth Global Fund Replenishment Conference in Montreal (September 2016) Italy announced that it will contribute €140 million (US$175 million) for the 2017-2019 funding period. This is a strong increase compared to the €100 million pledged by Italy for 2014-2016.

Italy is also a major funder of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi). It supports Gavi mostly through innovative finance mechanisms: it is the largest donor to Gavi’s Advance Market Commitment (AMC), a mechanism that provides market incentives for vaccine makers to develop and produce sustainable and affordable products for neglected diseases (Italy committed 51% of total pledged by all donors to the AMC). Italy is also the third-largest contributor to the International Financing Facility for Immunization (IFFIm), a financing entity that makes immediate funding available to Gavi. In addition, in 2015, Italy committed €100 million in direct funding to Gavi for 2016 to 2020, its first-ever direct contribution. Taking together all funding mechanisms (AMC, IFFIm, direct funding), Italy has committed US$437 million for Gavi’s 2016-2020 funding period.

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Italy’s bilateral ODA to health amounted to US$77 million in 2015, corresponding to 4% of Italy’s total bilateral ODA. Within health, funding focused on medical services (36%) and health systems strengthening (25%). This is partly in line with the priorities spelled out in the Guidelines for Development Cooperation 2016-2018, which include universal health care (UHC) and HSS. Global health research and development (R&D) is a new focus area (for more details, see section ‘Deep Dive: Global Health Research and Development’).

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DGCS defines priorities within global health

Within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation (MAECI), the Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGCS) defines Italy’s priorities around global health. Relevant departments include the Deputy Minister’s cabinet, geographic departments, and the unit on multilateral development cooperation, which is in charge of relations with multilateral organizations working on global health, such as the Global Fund. Within the development agency AICS, the office in charge of programs in the health sector is the ‘human development office’. It is headed by Enrico Materia, who has a strong background in global health .


Italy’s priority countries for bilateral cooperation on health:

  • Mozambique
  • Ethiopia
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Kenya
  • Sudan
  • Niger
  • South Africa
  • Burkina Faso