Food Coalition

Protecting the most vulnerable, promoting economic recovery and enhancing risk management capacities

About 41 percent of the Near East and North Africa region (about 403 million people) live in rural areas, which host the majority of the region’s poor and food insecure. The region is the most land and water scarce in the world, with 0.3 ha of agricultural land per capita and per capita water availability at 10 percent of the global average. On top of structural fragility exhibited by water and land scarcities, the region is experiencing many complex and intersecting shocks, including conflict; transboundary plant pests; transboundary animal diseases; climate shocks and stresses (such as drought, floods and sand and dust storms); and economic crises. All these colliding disasters, crisis, conflicts, and the COVID-19 pandemic as the most recent in the series of shocks and crises have continued to exacerbate food and nutrition insecurities in the region, resulting in a worrying trend since 2013. In 2019, nearly 13 percent of the region’s population (around 55 million people) suffered from hunger,1 mostly driven by conflicts. The region had three of the world’s top ten most food-insecure countries in 2019 (Sudan, Syria and Yemen), which contributed with over 20 percent of the global humanitarian caseload.2 Food insecurity accounts for about 36 percent and 25 percent, respectively, of the refugees and people internally displaced by conflict and violence globally.3 Malnutrition and diet-related non-communicable diseases are significant concerns, with nearly half of the countries in the region presenting high or very high prevalence of stunting in children under five years of age4. The frequency and severity of transboundary plant pests and diseases – particularly desert locust and other pests such as fall armyworm – are increasing in recent years. The ongoing upsurge of desert locust further worsens food insecurity in Sudan and Yemen and poses significant threats to other countries in the region, such as Egypt, Oman and Saudi Arabia. Climate shocks and stresses, in particular, droughts (especially in Maghreb countries), floods and flash floods (especially in Sudan and Yemen),as well as sand and dust storms have further intensified the chronic and acute vulnerabilities, in countries already affected by conflict and desert locust. Economic crises have seriously hit some countries of the region, with a significant negative impact on the agriculture and food sectors. For instance, the economic and financial crises in Lebanon since October 2019 have led to contraction of the economy by 4 percent in 2019, and 20 percent contraction is expected in 2020, according to a report by the Bank of America.5 In Sudan, it is estimated that GDP contracted by 2.5 percent in 2019, on top of a 2.25 percent contraction in 2018.6 In both countries, the crises struck the agriculture and food sectors. Heavy dependence on imported agricultural inputs under hyperinflation remarkably reduced access to inputs by smallholders and increased the cost of production, as well as increased food prices. The disruptions of markets further disfavoured smallholders and people with agriculture and food-based livelihoods and impacted poor and most vulnerable in terms of food security and nutrition in both rural and urban areas. The COVID-19 outbreak comes on the heels of other serious shocks and stresses that have strained the resilience of the population and further exacerbates multiple risks, including food insecurity and malnutrition. Agriculture and food sectors are suffering across the region despite being exempted by most countries from the lockdown. Smallholders are the most affected in many ways, including: disruptions in labour supply along the entire food value chain; shortage and high prices of agriculture inputs; disruptions to the food supply chain and hampered consumption of healthy diets; and compounded impacts from multiple disasters and crisis.

Priority Areas of work: Boosting Smallholder Resilience for Recovery
SDG: 1. No Poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 13. Climate Action, 15. Life on Land
Level: Regional
Region: Near East and North Africa
Country: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, State of, Mauritania, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Yemen
Budget: USD 125 million

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