The Near East and North Africa(NENA) region fails to halve hunger by 2015
15 countries out of 19 achieved MDG hunger target but protracted crises elsewhere push malnutrition rates up.
Most countries in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) achieved their international pledge to reduce the share of their population suffering from hunger, but conflicts and protracted crises in Iraq, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, as well as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, mean the region is the only region to have seen its overall prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) increase from the level of a quarter of a century ago.
Some 33 million people in NENA are chronically undernourished today, double the number in 1990, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today. The region’s PoU rose to 7.5 percent from 6.6 percent, according to FAO’s first NENA Overview of Food Insecurity.
“The NENA region, as a whole has witnessed a serious setback in its fight against hunger.
Conflicts and protracted crises are the main drivers of food insecurity in the region,” Said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO Assistant Director- General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa Region. “The NENA region currently exhibits the highest number and intensity of conflicts in the world. Over the last few years, 12 NENA countries have witnessed at least one form of instability, including civil unrest, wars or protracted crises.” Ould Ahmed added.
Recent estimates show that the Syrian crisis has left 13.6 million people –in critical need of sustained food and agricultural assistance– 9.8 million inside Syria and 3.8 million refugees. Similarly, the prolonged crisis in Yemen is aggravating the food insecurity, one out of four persons is considered undernourished in Yemen, with an estimated half of its 24 million people requiring humanitarian assistance at the beginning of 2015. In Iraq, the prevalence of undernourishment, which was only 8 percent in 1990–1992, has risen to 23 percent in 2014 –2016.
“The overall picture should not overshadow progresses made by the large majority of countries. We should commend the 15 countries in the region that have achieved the Millennium Development Goal hunger target of halving the proportion of people suffering from undernourishment or keeping it below 5 percent. These include: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi-Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.” Ould Ahmed added.
Performance in NENA was also uneven, with two countries – the State of Kuwait and the Sultanate of Oman – achieving both the MDG target and the more stringent World Food Summit goal of halving the number of hungry people,
Globally, the PoU for developing countries declined to 12.9 percent from 23.4 percent – with notable variation including rapid drops in Latin America, West Africa and much of Asia and increases in troubled areas such as Central Africa, according to the State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) 2015, released last week by FAO, the World Food Program and the International Fund for Agriculture.
A comprehensive strategy and a collective commitment to eradicating hunger
With the number of undernourished people remaining “unacceptably high”, FAO stressed the need to renew the political commitment and coordinated regional efforts, to tackle undernourishment.
The NENA Overview confirms that there is still hope. It also states that progress in eradication hunger is possible and can actually happen, if stability, political and regional commitments as well as integrated and coordinated approach, backed by actionable programmes and resources are in place. In fact, average food supply – including imports – in the NENA region has risen by 10 percent in calorie terms since 1990 and is now considerable above the world average.
“As we move beyond the MDGs and toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), managing sustainably the scarce water resources and investing in social protection, more specifically, on ways to lessen vulnerability through social and productive safety net programs and policies with respect to food and nutritional security, are critical to address the multiple threats and risks to food security and nutrition and to build resilience in the NENA region,” said OuldAhmed.
The NENA Overview of Food Insecurity provides a summary on the region’s progress towards the achievement of the MDG and WFS hunger targets, using data from SOFI 2015, and also highlights a number of policy recommendations to cope with future challenges including that of climate change in a region with limited water resources.
Related Links: Near East and North Africa Overview of Food Insecurity 2015
Audio: Interview with Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO Assistant – Director General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa region.