FAO in Sudan

The Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Equality and Food Security in the Arab region with a focus on the Sudan and Iraq


A Regional Rapid Gender Analysis (RGA) was conducted with a special focus on Sudan and Iraq as case studies to provide information about the different needs, capacities and coping strategies of women, men, boys and girls in a crisis. Rapid Gender Analysis is built up progressively: using a range of primary and secondary information to understand gender roles and relations and how they may change during a crisis. It provides practical programming and operational recommendations to meet the different needs of women, men, boys and girls and to ensure we ‘do no harm’.  Rapid gender analysis uses the tools and approaches of gender analysis frameworks and adapts them to the shorter time-frames, rapidly changing contexts, and insecure environments that often characterise humanitarian interventions, to ensure that data is available to inform humanitarian response efforts and contributing to recovery and preparedness efforts. 

The rapid gender analysis (RGA) explores the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on gender equality and food security in the Arab region. It is a joint collaboration between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and CARE International (CARE). This collaboration recognizes the need to expand the evidence base on gender-differentiated impacts of crises for informed recovery and response planning, while highlighting the imperative of collecting sex- and age-disaggregated data (SADD) more consistently.

This initiative was an innovative pilot project between FAO, WFP and CARE. The aim of the collaboration was to foster multilevel partnerships and strengthen gender analysis for the food security sector in crisis contexts. The initiative brought together technical experts in food security, nutrition and livelihoods across the agencies involved, as well as gender specialists to explore, develop and test tools, methods and approaches. The regional focus of the study identified key themes, challenges and norms across multiple contexts in the Arab region, while highlighting specific findings for Iraq and the Sudan. While sources have varying regional definitions for the Arab region, for the purpose of this review, the denomination includes the countries under the FAOi Near East and North Africa region, the WFPii Middle East and North Africa region, and the CAREiii Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The findings and successes of this initiative are intended to strengthen the relationship between gender and food security actors regionally, and in particular within Iraq and the Sudan, while increasing the availability and transparency of gender analysis in the sphere of food security.

Gender norms and dynamics impact women’s social, economic and political participation, as well as their access to resources and services. Crises tend to reinforce and exacerbate existing barriers and discriminatory practices, which affects the ability of individuals (particularly those most vulnerable) to respond, adapt and recover from them. In some contexts, such as in Iraq and the Sudan, COVID-19 struck at a time when coping strategies were already quite compromised due to pre-existing crises and an already fragile context.1 This is especially true for individuals and groups with pre-existing vulnerabilities, which have been compounded by the pandemic.

The first confirmed COVID-19 case in the region occurred in the United Arab Emirates in January 20202 with the first case of COVID-19 recorded in Iraq on 24 February3 and in the Sudan on 13 March 2020. This RGA was developed from March 2021 to June 2021, based on a comprehensive review of regional and country-level secondary data and the collection of primary data in selected areas in Iraq and the Sudan.

Primary data collection was conducted through both quantitative and qualitative methods, from a total of 1 292 respondents. Quantitative surveys were conducted for 1 207 respondents randomly selected within FAO and WFP beneficiaries (in the case of Iraq) and within the population living in CARE working areas (in the case of the Sudan). Key informant interviews (KII) were conducted with 45 respondents, and individual stories were collected from 40 respondents with the aim of hearing diverse perspectives based on gender, age and diversity factors (e.g. female-headed households (FHHs), the elderly, internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, returnees, etc.). Areas of enquiry included “Impact areas and priority needs”; “gender roles and responsibilities”; “access to services and resources”; “impact on resources and coping mechanisms”; “decision-making and participation”; and, “safety and protection.”

While there are clearly some common trends (e.g. the increase in women’s work burden), the analysis of both primary and secondary data clearly shows that the impacts felt by individuals and households are quite different in each country context. Effective programming will hinge on the extent to which updated data can appropriately identify evolving needs and priorities for those most vulnerable.

To read the full version of the publication please visit the following link https://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/cb7852en