The report, titled “Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition in the Near East and North Africa 2020: Enhancing Resilience of Food Systems in the Arab States,” has revealed that 75 million people in the Arab region likely to be affected by hunger by 2030.
The report assessed food-system resilience and nutrition in 22 countries stretching from Tunisia in the west to Yemen in the east.
According to its 2019 estimates, about 51.4 million people in the region — around 12.2 percent of the population — were already going hungry before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has further exacerbated disruptions to supply chains and livelihoods.
About 137 million people in the region were deemed to be either moderately or severely food insecure, lacking regular access to sufficient and nutritious food — a trend that is expected to worsen unless measures are taken to improve systemic resilience.
“Meanwhile, in south Yemen, 29.8 million people were reported to be acutely food insecure in 2020, mainly due to the impact of violence, alongside other pre-existing socioeconomic conditions.”
The report is based on a collaboration between FAO, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), WFP and the World Health Organization.
What is especially troubling about its findings is the impact that hunger and food insecurity is having on public health and child development. According to the report’s 2019 estimates, 22.5 percent of children under the age of 5 were stunted, 9.2 percent wasted, and 9.9 percent overweight.
Also owing to poor nutrition, 27 percent of the region’s adult population are classified as obese, making the Arab region the second-worst offender for obesity in the world. The same dietary shortcomings have left 35 percent of women of reproductive age anemic.