Hunger has risen a 91.1% in the Arab world since 2000 and has affected 141 million people, the 2021 Near East and North Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has found.
The increase has been the result of “protracted crises, social unrests, and exposure to multiple shocks and stresses such as conflicts, poverty, inequality, climate change, scarce natural resources and the economic repercussions associated with the recent COVID-19 pandemic”, the report states.
Conflicts continue to be one of the leading causes of hunger in the region and push around 53.4 million people to face hunger. “There may be no visible improvement in the situation this year since hunger’s primary drivers will continue to drag the situation further down the road,” has said FAO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa, Abdulhakim Elwaer.
The report also shows that 69 million people in the region were undernourished in 2020, an increase of 4.8 million people compared to 2019. Somalia and Yemen have the highest prevalence of undernourishment between 2018-2020 with nearly 60% of Somalis struggling with hunger and more than 45% of Yemenis undernourished.
Moderate or severe food insecurity affected 32.3% of the Arab region’s population in 2020, higher than the global average of 30.4%. Additionally, countries suffering from a conflict tend to suffer from this nearly 2.5 times as much as stable states. Somalia and Sudan have the highest rates of food insecurity.
20.5% of Arab children under the age of five faced a reduced growth rate and human development in 2020, the study adds.
The pandemic has added to the difficult ongoing situation in those countries. Jean-Marc Faurès, FAO’s Regional Programme Leader for the Near East and North Africa, told: “Most of 2021 has seen major disruptions in many sectors due to Covid, with, for instance, major logistical problems related to transportation of food, and in general inflation and increase in the price of major food commodities.”
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic started, the UN warned that the Arab World was not on track to meet its Zero Hunger goal as part of the organization’s Sustainable Development Goals. Now, the report confirms that it will be “enormously difficult for the region to achieve” its targets by 2030. Efforts have stalled and are not likely to improve due to present economic disruptions.