Near East and North Africa Regional Overview of Food Insecurity 2016


Sustainable agriculture water management is key to ending hunger and to climate change adaptation

The second edition of the panorama coincides with the adoption of the sustainable development agenda and the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the agreement on climate change reached at CCOP21 in Paris. The report, therefore, gives particular attention to the situation of food insecurity from the sustainability perspective, in particular the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2), which aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. The report uses both the prevalence of undernourishment and the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) which is an agreed indicator for the tracking of the SDG2.

Key Messages

  • Within the NENA region, levels and trends of undernourishment have differed widely from one country to another since 1990. The subregion of the GCC countries and Yemen shows a mild decrease in the prevalence of undernourishment. The Near East has witnessed a dramatic increase in the prevalence of undernourishment, while, North Africa is the only subregion that has met the MDG hunger target. 
  • According to the FIES indicator, the prevalence of severe food insecurity in the NENA adult population was close to 9.5 percent in 2014-2015, representing approximately 30.1 million people.  
  • Food insecurity at moderate or severe levels in NENA, measured using FIES, is slightly higher than that of developing regions as a whole. The North Africa subregion fares better than developing regions overall. The Near East subregion has the highest food insecurity rate in the region. 
  • The value of food production in NENA has increased; however, the growth of domestic food production has consistently lagged behind the growth of food demand, creating a widening gap between domestic production and demand, which is fulfilled by imports. 
  • The region has made significant progress in terms of access to water and sanitation facilities, essential to ensuring proper conditions for the utilization of food. As a whole, the NENA region has reached its MDG targets for both the use of improved water sources and sanitation facilities. 
  • Conflicts and political instability in several parts of the region are major causes of disruption in food availability and accessibility and are behind the surge in undernourishment among children.
  • In NENA, food security is closely linked to the fiscal capacity to pay for food imports, and for safety nets to ensure access of the poor and vulnerable to food, countries will be confronted with difficult trade-offs in their endeavours to advance SDG 2 that are likely to test the strong political will to improve food security and end hunger.
  • NENA is the most arid region in the world and the availability of per capita renewable freshwater is less than 10 percent of the world average. Water scarcity is expected to worsen as a result of the population growth and the impact of climate change. 
  • Addressing climate change impacts on the water and agriculture sector in NENA will require the implementation of a set of integrated interventions on the supply and demand side and on the incentive framework governing agriculture water management. 
  • Countries of the region need to implement long term and comprehensive sustainable water management to sustain agriculture production and adapt to climate change. 
  • Sustainable agriculture water management should include strategies and policies to improve irrigation efficiency, establish sustainable ground water management, promote incentives for farmers to shift to crops with higher economic returns per drop, cut food losses and waste, promote sustainable consumption of cereals and enhance resilience of the vulnerable population and farmers to food price and climate shocks.