FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Conflict causing spikes in food insecurity in the Near East and North Africa

Strife and violence in some countries are casting a shadow on prospects for Zero Hunger across the entire region

21 December 2017, Cairo/Rome – Conflict   and protracted crises in a handful of countries in the Near East and North   Africa are hamstringing efforts to eradicate hunger in the region by 2030,   according to a new FAO report published today.

The   2017 edition of the Regional  Overview of Food Security and Nutrition in the Near East and North Africa  (NENA) highlights in particular how an ongoing   intensification of violence is opening a wide "hunger gap" between countries   being affected by conflicts and those that are not.

In NENA countries directly impacted by conflict, 27.2 percent of all people were   chronically hungry – or undernourished – during the 2014-16 period. That's   six times higher than the share of the population that was undernourished in   countries not affected by strife (4.6 percent, on average).  Meanwhile, "severe food insecurity" –  another metric used by FAO to measure hunger – in conflict-affected countries   now is double that in non-conflict countries.

These trends are casting a dark shadow on the broader NENA region's ability to   achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of Zero Hunger by 2030, today's report warns. (Full list of NENA countries below)

In a region largely made up of developing, middle-income countries – where chronic   hunger typically affects less than 5 percent of their populations – violence in an unfortunate few has seen the proportion of chronically hungry people in   conflict zones shoot up to levels comparable with the world's poorest   countries, which is exercising a strong drag effect on hunger reduction in   the full NENA area.

This will make realistic progress towards eradicating hunger in the region using   traditional tools of policymaking difficult, unless decisive steps towards peace and stability are taken, the report cautions.

Hot spots

The   report highlights several NENA countries being particularly affected by   conflict, with profound consequences for people's incomes and food security.

In Syria, violence has provoked a 67 percent reduction in the country's Gross Domestic   Product (GDP) and severely undermined food security – from 70 to 80 percent   of Syrians now need humanitarian assistance, while 50 percent require food assistance.

In Iraq, where violence has led to for 58 percent decline in GDP, 30 percent of the   population needs humanitarian assistance while 9 percent requires food assistance.

Yemen is also being wracked by conflict, leading to a situation in which 70 to 80 of   the population are in need humanitarian assistance and 50 percent require   food assistance.

Libya is another hot spot where conflict is undermining food security; there, 6   percent of the population are in need of food assistance, according to the   report.

Building resilience in trying times

Speaking   at the report's Cairo launch, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional   Representative, Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, highlighted the pivotal importance of   building resilience and sustaining peace in the Near East and North Africa   region to improving peoples' well-being.

He   pointed to "the growing need to implement long-term and comprehensive   policies and practices to achieve Zero hunger by 2030," adding that that   "when countries in the region are suffering from an escalation of conflicts,   the aim to tackle the region's deepest concerns of malnutrition, water   scarcity and climate change becomes more challenging but at the same time   more urgent".

"Only   through improved cooperation and solidarity will the region be able to end   conflicts and violence and get back to development," Ould Ahmed concluded.

Today's   report establishes a baseline for measuring future progress towards achieving   SDG 2 in the NENA region using the latest indicators for the SDG targets on   hunger and food insecurity (Target 2.1) and malnutrition (Target 2.2).

The   report also identifies how conflict itself encumbers SDG monitoring. UN   agencies gather and assess information on food security and nutrition status   during conflict, but the data are not always complete and can be difficult to   compare with peacetime data.

Beyond   statistics, the report focuses on the fundamental factors that have driven   improvements in food security and malnutrition: poverty reduction, economic   growth, improvements in maternal and childhood nutrition and public health,   increases in the quantity and quality of food and the cessation of violence.

Note   to editors: NENA countries include Algeria, Bahrain,   Egypt, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya,   Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the Syrian Arab   Republic, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.