Italy - Nutrition

Italy has shown international political leadership on nutrition issues, though funding is low

Nutrition (and malnutrition in children) is mentioned as a focus area in the ‘Programming and Policy Document’ for 2021-2023 and constitutes a component of the Italian Development Cooperation’s (AICS) broader focus on agriculture and food security. 

Nutrition-specific: Interventions that address immediate causes of undernutrition and have the improvement of nutrition (i.e., support for exclusive breastfeeding, supplementary feeding, etc.) as their primary objective.

Nutrition-sensitive: Interventions that address underlying causes of malnutrition and that take into account cross-sector actions and impacts (i.e., improving access to diverse foods).

Italy reaffirmed its focus on food security and nutrition during its 2017 G7 presidency, committing support to the UN Secretary General’s call for urgent action in several famine-stricken countries in Africa and pledging to spearhead collective support for nutrition in ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ (SSA; meaning the countries of Eastern, Western, Central, and Southern Africa, according to the African Union’s designations). As part of its G20 Presidency, the Italian Ministry of Health placed a particular focus on malnutrition. 

Italy helped launch the FAO-led ‘Food Coalition’ during its G20 Presidency in 2021. The ‘Food Coalition’ is an initiative to tackle the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on agriculture and nutrition by creating a platform for international experts to enhance the sharing of best practices to mitigate food insecurity exacerbated by the pandemic. Italy pledged an additional €5 million (US$6 million) to the ‘Food Coalition’ in May 2022.  Italy also took an active role in food security discussions at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in June 2022 and signaled strong support for responding to the global food insecurity crisis exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Italy is the donor convenor for Sudan as part of the ‘Scaling Up Nutrition’ (SUN) initiative of the World Food Programme (WFP), which unites governments, civil society, the UN, donors, businesses, and researchers in a collective effort to improve nutrition. Italy made an additional €3 million (US$3 million) contribution to the initiative, in direct response to the food and inflation crises that have been intensified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Italy contributed US$15 million to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2020 and US$14 million to the WFP. 

According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Italy’s funding for basic nutrition (nutrition-specific activities) stood at US$6 million in 2020. Funding has been decreasing since its peak in 2018 at US$10 million, followed by US$8 million in 2019. However, Italy’s engagement in the nutrition sector is difficult to quantify precisely, particularly as Italy does not participate in the reporting framework set by the ‘SUN’ initiative to track nutrition-sensitive interventions. 

Nutrition policy is shaped by the DGCS and AICS offices

Priorities are set by the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation (DGCS), within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development (MAECI). Relevant departments include geographic departments and the unit for multilateral cooperation. Within AICS, the ‘Rural Development and Food Security’ office drives Italy’s policy around nutrition. The Italian ambassador to the UN institutions in Rome also plays a key role in defining priorities on nutrition. The government has strong ties with these Rome-based UN agencies known as the ‘Rome Agri-food Hub.’