Ending Hunger in Italy

In the past few years, remarkable progress has been made toward ending hunger in Italy and throughout Europe. However, there are still 836 million people living in poverty worldwide along with 795 million people struggling with chronic hunger.

By looking at Italy’s approach to addressing hunger and poverty–both domestically and internationally–the achievements and shortcomings of Italy’s social policy reveals the complexities of the fight to end global hunger by 2030.

10 Facts About Ending Hunger in Italy

  1. The rate of undernourishment in Italy is at 5 percent, according to the Global Food Security Index. This low figure is in part due to Italy’s food safety net programs, school lunch programs and high nutritional standards.
  2. Italy has one of the highest child poverty rates in Europe. Children are subsequently more at risk of living in a food insecure household. About 15.9 percent of Italian children live in relative poverty, according to UNICEF. Relative poverty is defined as living in a household where disposable income is less than 50 percent of the national median income when adjusted for family size and composition.
  3. Over one in four Italians are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, according to Italian news agency ANSA. In 2015, Italy’s poverty risk rate rested at 28.4 percent versus the European Union average of 24.5 percent after years of facing an economic crisis.
  4. According to UNICEF, an estimated 13.3 percent of children in Italy are deprived of some basic necessities even if they don’t live below the poverty line. UNICEF included 14 items on the deprivation index including whether or not children had access to three meals per day, fresh fruits and vegetables every day, and at least one meal with a rich protein source.
  5. If you’re homeless and hungry, it may not be a crime to steal food from a supermarket in Italy, according to an Italian court ruling this year. The Supreme Court of Cassation revoked the conviction of Roman Ostriakov, a homeless man from Ukraine, attempting to leave a supermarket with cheese and sausage in his pocket after only paying for some breadsticks. The circumstances under which Ostriakov stole was enough for the court to decide that he stole in a state of immediate and essential need which does not constitute crime, according to ANSA.
  6. Social welfare resources in Italy, such as the Social Card, are inadequate for alleviating poverty and ending hunger in Italy. According to a national report by Combatting Poverty in Europe (COPE), the Social Card is a debit card charged on a bimonthly basis – financed by public resources and private donations – and is used to purchase groceries and pay basic utilities. The Social Card has been subject to heated debate due to the strict and very limited eligibility of getting a card, and the inadequate financial assistance the card provides to low income families.
  7. In response to the apparent need for improving social welfare programs in Italy, organizations like the Costa Crociere Foundation formed to provide humanitarian assistance. The Costa Crociere Foundation addresses the main causes of poverty by “giving people the tools they need to lift themselves out of hunger” in the long term while working to ease the short-term effects of hunger and homelessness. They do this through food assistance programs and providing shelter for the homeless.
  8. In 2015, Expo Milano was hosted in Milan, Italy centered around the theme “Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life.” The exposition’s primary objective is to foster international dialogue on the challenges concerning food security, malnutrition and sustainable agricultural practices. Expo Milano was visited by an estimated 20 million people, according to the Brookings Institution.
  9. While the Italian government and local organizations continue to grapple with alleviating poverty and ending hunger in Italy, the country is also a top donor for international hunger relief programs. According to the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), Italy is as a generous donor and partner with IFAD in their shared mission to make food security a reality worldwide. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations also recognizes Italy’s contribution to 39 projects that have been implemented in 85 countries “with the aim of addressing poverty and improving food security by enhancing agricultural productivity.
  10. Ending hunger in Italy is not Italy’s only goal. The United Nations, including Italy, aims to end world hunger by 2030. The UN and partner organizations plan to end world hunger by primarily focusing on increasing investment in rural infrastructure and agricultural resources in developing countries and reforming food security policies worldwide.

Daniela N. Sarabia

Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Italy
Rome, Italy has a population of nearly 2.9 million people and is considered to be one of Europe’s most significant cities. Notwithstanding its status as a city rich with culture and history, Rome is also a victim of poverty.

Although the country has seem some economic stability during the past several years, Rome, as well as the rest of Italy, are not foreign to financial turmoil.

Several years ago, poverty in Italy reached its highest level in over 16 years. It resulted in high levels of unemployment and lower wages. Today, more than 16 percent of the country’s population lives in poverty.

In Italy, poverty is defined by a family of two living on a monthly income of 991 euros or less.

Similar to much of the industrialized world, Italy experienced an economic recession following the global stock market downturn of the late 2000s. Between 2011 and 2012, the nation saw its poverty levels increase.

Like the rest of the country, Rome’s economy is decidedly mixed. Even though Italy has seen some economic improvement in recent years, there continues to be some worrisome signs.

As a metropolitan city and popular tourist destination, Rome, like many of Europe’s cities, regularly sees its economy boosted by tourism. This is in conjunction with an increasingly significant number of African refugees who occupy isolated camps and villages around the city.

Unlike other countries, Italy does not provide refugees with adequate skill sets and chances to seek new economic opportunities. Many of these refugees, who are from the impoverished nations of the Horn of Africa, often find similar poverty conditions along the outskirts of Rome.

Such poverty is not limited to African refugees, however. Thousands of children in the city live in a state of poverty. Austerity measures, generated by the recession of recent years, have not had much of an effect.

Perhaps only time can help alleviate some of Rome’s economic suffering. With its notable tourism industry, Rome will likely remain one of Europe’s most prominent cities despite its lingering poverty problem.

– Ethan Safran

Sources: Reuters, Ansa Med, Open Society Foundations, Global Post, The Guardian
Photo: RT

poverty in naples
There is truth to the common stereotype that Naples, Italy is a poor and dirty city ruled by the mafia. Indeed, organized crime and political corruption have hampered the city’s development for decades.

Despite being a major tourist destination, Naples is one of the poorest cities in Europe. The city has an unemployment rate of about 28 percent, and some estimates even put the rate as high as 40 percent.

Across all of Italy, the economic situation has been on the decline. Ever since the 2008 recession struck, Italy has lagged behind the rest of Europe by a significant margin.

The poverty rate is the highest it’s been in at least 16 years. And matters are far worse in the south — where Naples is located — than in the richer north. Between 2011 and 2012 alone, poverty rose in the north from 4.9 percent to 6.2 percent compared to 23.3 percent to 26.2 percent in the south.

A recent study in Naples showed that only three percent of the population said that it was “easy to find a good job.”

Italy’s economic downfall has hit poor Neapolitans harder than most. The recession has forced a series of spending cuts. In 2010, the Campania region ended its minimum welfare program which delivered over 130,000 families into the clutches of poverty.

And those few Neapolitans who can find legitimate work have found the pay insufficient to support a family. The result has been a shocking increase in child labor.

Thousands of Neapolitan children have been forced to work just to keep their families afloat.

After his father suddenly died of cancer, 10-year-old Gennaro had to drop out of school and begin work as a shop assistant. He wakes up every morning at 7 a.m. and begins his work carrying boxes and crates for less than a euro an hour — which is significantly more than his mother earns.

He and his family live in a tiny 35-square-meter apartment in downtown Naples. Their story is becoming an increasingly common one for the area.

Between 2005 and 2009, 54,000 children in the Campania region dropped out of school, presumably to begin working. Of those kids, 38 percent were under 13 years of age.

As bad as child labor is, the more menacing case is when the kid drops out of school to work for the local mafia. The Camorra crime family — which runs Naples’ lucrative and dangerous black market — is infamous for employing child soldiers.

The mafia in Naples has built up an army of young pickpockets and enforcers. Take for example 12-year-old Marco, who was drafted as a pickpocket when his family fell into debt with mafia loan sharks. Camorra made Marco drop out of school and join their ranks, where he then became addicted to cocaine.

The crime-ridden state of affairs in Naples has made one in five locals say they “rarely or never felt safe” in their neighborhood.

While Italy’s economic crisis has played a large part in the misfortunes of Naples, it is the rampant organized crime that is primarily to blame. For a long-term, sustainable fix to poverty in Naples, the mafia’s grip on the city’s politics must be eliminated.

Sam Hillestad

Sources: European Commission, Reuters, VoxEurop
Photo: Flickr


Without any other choice, people are fleeing the country of Eritrea. The Eritrean government has been involved in several forms of human rights violations since 1993, when they broke off from Ethiopia. It is described by Human Rights Watch as “one of the most closed countries” in the world.

Reporters without Borders rank the country last on their freedom index and Amnesty International believes the country has imprisoned more than 10,000 citizens for political reasons since 1993. Despite all these violations, the government claims they have made progress in working to reach six of eight of the U.N.’s anti-poverty goals.

As a result of these rights violations, previous estimates show that Ethiopia had been experiencing a monthly inflow of 2,000 refugees. Italy has experienced an inflow of 13,000 Eritrean refugees since the beginning of the year and Sudan has also seen a rise in those seeking asylum.

More recent estimates by U.N. investigators, however, average the number at 4,000. Investigators describe this 50 percent spike as “shocking” and a sign that the situation has gotten worse since last year’s U.N. report.

Accusations of abuse by the Eritrean government include indefinite service in the country’s army, detainment of citizens without cause, secret imprisonment, torture and forced labor. The government has also enforced guilt by association laws for families of those who flee, resulting in fines or detainment. Many die while in detainment due to appalling living conditions including extreme heat, poor hygiene and very little food.

The path to freedom is a rocky journey often involving the crossing of deserts and seas. Many drown in the sea or die from the extreme heat in the desert, yet their hope and lack of choice drives their journey as they risk life and limb to reach free land.

Poverty provides opportunities for oppression and also creates the conditions necessary for oppression to thrive. When people of the world do not have the resources necessary to retaliate or the power necessary to change policy, they are left with few options. Often, the best choice is to leave, and so they do, often in the face of great danger.

Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: Bloomberg, Voice of America, ABC News
Photo: Cloudfront

At least 5,000 migrants floating in overcrowded boats have been rescued off the coast of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea since Thursday, June 5. Varying reports have indicated a range of 5,200-5,470 people having been rescued so far. As a result of this most recent rescue effort, the total amount of migrants that have reached Italy from North Africa has exceeded 50,000 in 2014.

The most recent rescue effort has been spearheaded by one operation led by the Italian government, called Mare Nostrum. This operation has been in effect since October 2013, and was launched in response to 366 migrants drowning after their boat collapsed just off the shore of Sicily. That disaster not only spawned Mare Nostrum into being, but also prompted a one-off response from the EU in the form of a $30 million euro emergency fund that focused on land facilities.

Ever since that initial disaster and relief fund, Italy has been repeatedly asking for more help from the EU, with very little, if any, response. This is highlighted by the fact that only Slovenia offered one ship for the span of two months last year, and that a U.S. Navy ship and a Maltese merchant vessel rescued a combined 307 migrants in the most recent event on June 5.

This most recent event is only another vivid example of the continuing problem of migrants risking their lives to flee North Africa in the hopes of a better future in Europe. This past May, an unknown number of migrants died and 17 bodies were recovered after a similar shipwreck occurred. Throughout 2013, at least 40,000 migrants landed in Italy, and this year is on track to top the record of 62,000 set in 2011 during the Arab Spring revolutions.

The Director General of International Organization for Migration, William Lacey Swing, recently released a statement trying to utilize this incident as a means to raise awareness and take action on this recurring problem. “The tragedy of migrants drowning at sea is unfortunately a global phenomenon, not just a Mediterranean emergency,” Swing said. “The unnecessary deaths of these migrants and asylum seekers is an affront to all civilized nations.”

Swing went on to state that “the international community must develop a more comprehensive approach to protect migrants and uphold human dignity. No single action is enough to address the root causes of these mixed migration flows, but lives will be saved if action is taken now to help both migrants and countries during the entire length of the migratory route.”

The International Organization for Migration has since called for a high level debate on migratory flows in the hopes of bringing together nations of destination and origin. As Swing put it: “We need to urgently look at a comprehensive range of actions that we can take together to prevent further loss of life. These include the enhancement of legal avenues for migrants seeking better prospects in Europe and the establishment of various mechanisms and measures in countries of transit in North Africa to provide migrants and asylum seekers in need of protection with opportunities to receive legal counseling.”

With any luck this most recent occurrence will cause more nations to pay attention and provide a sustainable solution to the ever-present issue of migrants attempting to leave their home countries to find a better future elsewhere.

– Andre Gobbo

Sources: International Organization for Migration, Reuters, HUffPost

Africa was nonchalantly divided up by the Europeans in the late 19th century with little regard for the autonomy and self-government of their African counterparts. Consequently, the more commanding European nations hastily snatched up hefty swaths of terrain in Africa. Italy, on the other hand, had only recently unified in 1871, and was delayed from dynamically engaging in African colonization. Italy was politically and fiscally fragile in the 1890s, in contrast to the affluent and dominant realms of France and Britain, and had to abide by the political arrangement of Europe at the time. Their low standing on the geopolitical stage constrained them to acquire the territories that remained from the initial rush of colonization, or as it’s more prominently known as, the Scramble for Africa. The sole remaining sovereign nation in Africa in the 1890s was Abysinnia, or as it is recognized today, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia at the time was a “highly traditional empire-state” based on the religious ethos that the ruling Solomonic dynasty descended directly from biblical figure King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The legend dictates that King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba bore the child later known as King Menelik I in the 10th century B.C., who “became the founder of the ruling Ethiopian dynasty.”

In 1896, Italian envoys met with then-ruler of Ethiopia King Menelik II under the pretense of establishing closer ties between their nations. King Menelik and Italy came to an agreement and signed the Treaty of Wuchale. The Treaty of Wuchale was primarily based on the sale of land to the Italians so they could fashion an Italian colony in the region. It was an uncomplicated treaty to appease Italians desire of a colonial empire. A perilously damning concern arose after the treaties were signed. The Italians had secretly slipped in an addendum that legally bound Ethiopia to maintain all foreign relations through Italy, as well as turning Ethiopia into an Italian protectorate. The version of the treaty produced in Amharic did not include this, but rather affirmed Ethiopia’s presence as an autonomous kingdom, with the individual choice of using Italy to conduct foreign affairs any way they saw fit.

King Menelik condemned the Italians for their supposed deception, and asserted that the treaty was not valid nor recognized by his government. The Italians disagreed, asserting King Menelik was well aware of the context of their agreement, threatening military action to maintain their theoretical newly instituted hegemony over Ethiopia.

Italy, however, underestimated the resistance they would face from invading Ethiopia, only deploying “18,00 men armed with about 56 pieces of artillery.” During this period, European nations characteristically did not encounter effective opposition or non-cooperation from African nations when attempting to establish preeminence through military means. Europe’s military was technologically highly developed in comparison to numerous African nations, conceiving an ideal situation for European colonial aspirations.

Racial attitudes in that era earnestly promoted Africa’s cultural inferiority. The European doctrine of mission civilisatrice or civilizing mission was a prime characteristic of Europe’s approach to colonization. The Civilizing mission in essence gave European nations justification for colonization on the foundation that it was their duty to enlighten, educate and humanize the purpotedly benighted and barbaric people of the world. The doctrine propped up their rationalization for colonial capers, but was also a leading basis for Italy’s underestimation of Ethiopia’s ability.

Though Italian forces were better equipped than the Ethiopian forces, King Menelik managed to unite the populace under the banner of preserving their independence. Italy was taken aback by King Menelik and his wife Empress Taytu’s ability to amass of army of substantial size, with some reports insisting their forces ranged between 100,000 and 120,000. The battle occurred on March 1, 1896, and ended with Italian forces in full retreat within a few hours. Consequently, the Italian soldiers fleeing abandoned much of their military hardware, allowing for the coalition of Ethiopian forces to collect the remnants.

The Battle of Adwa was a devastating loss for Italy, and resulted in political discord in Italy. General Bartiera, General of the Italian Armed Forces who led the battle, was severely disciplined for his mis-steps. Italy was then forced to sign the Treaty of Addis Ababa which denoted Ethiopia’s complete autonomy from foreign rule.

The significance of the battle was far-reaching. The victory was seen as one of the major sparks of the Pan-African movement. Furthermore, African-American civil rights activist W.E.B Dubois contended the importance of the victory and “promulgating Ethiopia as an idea of global African unity.” Why was it significant though?

The Battle of Adwa was the sole victory Africa had against a European power, in a time when Africa was under complete control by Europe. Moreover, African-Americans saw the victory as justification for their own self-worth. The triumph was even considered one of the primary reasons for the “modern global rise of a Pan-African vision of freedom.” Abebe Hailu, of the Washington Informer argues that it helped rewrite how Africans were viewed internationally, and assisted in altering the ingrained representation that Africans were “no better than ‘savages.'”

-Joseph Abay

Sources: The Guardian, Washington Informer, BBC, New Vision, Tadias, Origins, Al Jazeera, New Pittsburg Courier
Photo: Willem Janszoon

The number of people who are living in poverty in Italy has doubled since 2012. Over a million Italians are unable to afford to eat meat or pay for basic necessities such as heating for their houses. It is estimated that poverty in Italy is higher than it has ever been within the last 16 years.

Relative poverty is considered a family of two members living on a monthly salary of 991 euros or less. Approximately, 12.7 percent of families are living at relative poverty standards.

About eight percent of the Italian population is living in total poverty and unable to meet the minimum acceptable standard of living, according to the National Institute for Statistics (ISTAT).

“It is a reminder, if one were needed, of the severity and scale of Italy’s recession, the longest since the Second World War. Italy maybe the comeback kid of the global sovereign debt markets, but its economy does not look as though it will ever come back – and it was not even strong to start,” said Nicholas Spiro, head of Spiro Sovereign Strategy about ISTAT’s report.

The recession is taking a massive toll, currently plunging approximately 40 percent of Italian youth into unemployment.

Currently, Italy’s rate of unemployment and the amount of young people without education is the highest in Europe since the 1970s, totaling 23.9 percent. This means that one third of people ages 15-29 are either without education or without a job.

Only 58 percent of those who have graduated from college are able to find jobs out of school, which is below the average number of 77.2 percent in European countries.

The number of families living without adequate necessities, such as heating, has reached a staggering 8.6 million, or one family out of five. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for those same families to not be able to afford a healthy meal consisting of meat once every 2 days, meaning 16.6 percent of families living in poverty in Italy are not receiving an appropriate amount of nutrients.

Poverty in Southern Italy has increased by a whopping 90% over the past five years, a clear indicator of the economic gap between Northern Italy and Southern.

The recession is also affecting the ability of Italian employees to take a holiday break. 50 percent of Italians are not able to enjoy a holiday week off and, in Southern Italy, approximately 69 percent of Italians are unable to enjoy a holiday off. Employee wages are being cut and full-time employment is at record lows.

– Rebecca Felcon

Sources: Reuters, UK Reuters, The Local, CNBC, Global Post

10 Facts about Poverty in Italy
Poverty in Italy remains a problem. The ongoing economic recession, affecting many countries around the globe, has hit Italy especially hard. For the first time in 16 years, poverty rates have risen, along with the general jobless and youth unemployment rate. Overall, the number of full-time contract workers declined to 10.2 million in 2013, a 1.3 percent reduction from 2012.

The news was even worse for younger generations as youth unemployment reached an all-time high of 41.2 percent.

Although the first month of the New Year has yet to end, Italy remains hopeful to see results and move on from past adversities. Listed below are 10 facts about some of those adversities, as well the consequential effects the economic crisis has had on Italy over time.


Poverty in Italy Facts

  1. Between 2011 and 2012, Italy saw its relative poverty rate rise from 4.9 to 6.2 percent in the wealthier northern regions while it also rose from 23.3 to 26.2 percent in poorer southern areas.
  2. According to a Europe 2020 report, the risk-of-poverty rate climbed to almost 30 percent in 2012, more than double the amount in 2005.
  3. Between those same years, the poverty rate in industrial northern areas nearly tripled in poverty as it climbed from 2.5 to 6.4 percent.
  4. The amount of people living in absolute poverty affected as many as 1.7 million families in 2012 and as many as 4.8 million people in total.
  5. Absolute poverty is defined as a family or group of individuals whom are unable to obtain a monthly income which prevents them from obtaining necessary products and services needed to survive.
  6. In 2012, 3.2 million families lived in relative poverty, equivalent to almost 9.5 million people in total.
  7. Relative poverty is defined as a family or group of individuals who live together on a monthly income of less than $1,400 a day.
  8. Approximately four in ten people under-25 are currently out of the workforce.
  9. The number of younger people on full-time contracts currently resides at 9.4 percent.
  10. Italy looks to repair its economy 1 percent over the next two years and increase its job growth in the process.

Jeffrey Scott Haley

Sources: Financial Express, ANSAmed
Photo: Kay Kanat

Whenever there is mention of Italy, one is usually prompted to daydream to the romantic capital of Rome, to splendid and sunny Sicily, or even to the venerable Vatican. Seldom does poverty come to mind – thus, it may come as a surprise that Italy has, in fact, the highest amount of impoverished children in Europe—in which it is also the third largest economy.

As many as two million children are estimated to live below the poverty line in Italy, many of whom never even get the chance to attend school; those who do, on the other hand, often drop out to pursue a minimum wage job. Sex trade is, furthermore, rather common here, while access to hot water and other basic amenities is not.

According to UNICEF, a staggering one in two children in Italy live in “absolute poverty,” their parents unable to supply them with even the simplest of items such as Band-Aids. The aforementioned Sicily, a population tourist destination for its beaches, tanning and shopping, houses 32 percent of the poorest of Italy’s population. There is also a pressing lack of public child care services, which reportedly receives but 1.1 percent of the country’s total GDP. The ongoing economic crisis has only fostered these issues; however, UNICEF, among other concerned organizations, deems the country’s inattentiveness to its children’s futures as detrimental to the entire nation as a whole.

The divide among wealth is particularly evident within the northern and southern regions, the latter being the poorest area. Notably, the majority of sick children, regardless of origin, receive treatment in northern facilities, indicating the lack of- and poor quality of such in the south.

Moreover, in a study conducted in 2013, it was determined that a total of nearly five million Italians (or eight percent of the entire country’s population) live in absolute poverty. Despite Italy being filled with sunshine the year round (unlike some other countries in Europe, such as the ever-successful Sweden,) it is evidently one of the most unhappy nations out there. In this year’s World Happiness Report – surveying 156 countries – Italy places in at 45; while the United States (considerably bigger and more diverse, thus expected to do worse statistically rather than better than Italy,) comes in at 17.

Although nine out of 10 of the world’s poorest countries are currently located in Africa, and although Asia and India are other regions that are highly impacted by poverty, Italy, often perceived as luxurious and comparatively well-off, is also in current need of aid. It is suffering and while not being third-world, certainly remains below the current acceptable quality-of-life level, particularly so in Europe.

– Natalia Isaeva

Sources: The Local, The Daily Beast
Photo: RT

Immigration. Poverty. Men eating. Free meal from Caritas

With the global recession lasting over two years now, many countries have been highly affected by the current state of the global economy. One of the countries that has been hit the hardest is Italy. Many people do not think of Italy as a poor country by any means. However, the number of people that live in seriously deprived families in Italy has soared up to 8.6 million.

The unemployment rate in Italy for the younger generation has recently hit 40 percent. Italians’ purchasing power fell by 4.8 percent in this last year.

To put the drastic rate at which the poverty level in Italy is increasing into perspective, here are a few figures: The percentage of families that could not afford to eat a protein based meal such as meat every two days, rose to 16.6 percent in 2012. The year before, this percentage was only at 12.4 percent. In 2010 this percentage was at 6.7 percent. In two years, the percentage of families that could not eat a nutritious meal for a period longer than two days rose by 9.9 percent.

While all of this may seem grim, there is still hope for Italy. Prime Minister Enrico Letta stated that he believes Italy can stage an economic recovery without increasing its huge public debt. After meeting with his advisors, he concluded Italy’s economy may get slightly worse before there is improvement, but in the next few years improvements are expected in Italy’s fiscal state.

– Matthew Jackoski

Sources: Huffington Post, Reuters
Photo: Didier Ruef