Chapter 1 Sustainable Development Goal 2.1: Undernourishment and food insecurity
Hunger in the Arab region has continued to rise since 2014. The number of undernourished people reached 69 million in 2020, or 15.8 percent of the population. This is a 91.1 percent increase in the past two decades, and is close to the peak of 2011 when the region suffered from a major shock due to uprisings. The COVID-19 pandemic brought another major shock and the number of undernourished people in the region increased by 4.8 million compared to 2019. Hunger surged across all income levels, in conflict-affected countries as well as non-conflict countries. Somalia and Yemen, two conflict-affected, low-income countries had the highest levels of undernourishment in the region in 2020.
Moderate or severe food insecurity has also continued its rising trend, affecting an estimated 141 million people in 2020. This is an increase of more than 10 million people from the previous year and it is 17.3 percent higher than in 2014. Hence, an estimated 32.3 percent, or nearly one-third of the region’s population, did not have regular access to sufficient and nutritious food in 2020. The number of people that were exposed to severe food insecurity, which is another measure that approximates hunger, has also grown consistently with the undernourishment trend. In 2020, an estimated 49.4 million people experienced severe food insecurity, which is 2.9 million people more than in the previous year.
The recent trends in hunger and food insecurity suggest that it will be enormously difficult for the region to achieve by 2030 SDG 2, zero hunger. The region has already been off track to eliminate hunger and food insecurity because of pre-existing vulnerabilities and exposure to multiple shocks and stresses such as poverty, inequality, conflict, climate change and many others. Note: The data and analyses presented in this report refer to the Arab States: Algeria; Bahrein; the Comoros; Djibouti; Egypt; Iraq; Jordan; Kuwait; Lebanon; Libya; Mauritania; Morocco; Oman; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Somalia; the Sudan; the Syrian Arab Republic; Tunisia; the United Arab Emirates; Yemen, as well as Palestine.